Mutations within the rhodopsin gene are known to give rise to autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a common hereditary form of retinal degeneration. We now describe a patient with autosomal recessive RP who is homozygous for a nonsense mutation at codon 249 within exon 4 of the rhodopsin gene. This null mutation, the first gene defect identified in autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa, should result in a functionally inactive rhodopsin protein that is missing the sixth and seventh transmembrane domains including the 11-cis-retinal attachment site. We also found a different null mutation carried heterozygously by an unrelated unaffected individual. Heterozygous carriers of either mutation had normal ophthalmologic examinations but their electroretinograms revealed an abnormality in rod photoreceptor function.