Vertebrate retinal cones play a major role in both photopic vision and color perception. Although the molecular mechanism of visual excitation in the cone is not as well understood as in the rod, it is generally thought to involve a cone-specific G protein (cone transducin) that couples the cone visual pigment to a cGMP phosphodiesterase. Like all other G proteins, cone transducin is most likely a heterotrimer consisting of G alpha, G beta, and G gamma subunits. A G alpha subunit of cone transducin has been localized to the outer segment of bovine cones, but its associated G beta and G gamma subunits are unknown. To identify the G beta subunit involved in the phototransduction process of cones, we have developed a panel of antipeptide antisera against the most diverse region of the amino acid sequences encoded by G beta 1, G beta 2, and G beta 3 cDNAs and used them to determine the distribution of the G beta isoforms in different retinal preparations. We found that the G beta 3 subunit is present in bovine retinal transducin and phosducin-T beta gamma complex preparations which were previously thought to contain only G beta 1. Analysis of its subcellular distribution indicated that G beta 3 is predominantly cytoplasmic. Immunocytochemical staining of bovine retinal sections with the anti-G beta 3 antiserum further revealed a specific localization of G beta 3 in cones but not in rods. In contrast, anti-G beta 1 antiserum stained only the rods. These results suggest that G beta 3 is the G beta subunit of cone transducin and confirms the proposition that rods and cones utilize distinct signaling proteins for phototransduction.