Butterfly-shaped pigment dystrophy is an eye disease characterized by lesions in the macula that can resemble the wings of a butterfly. Here we report the identification of heterozygous missense mutations in the CTNNA1 gene (encoding α-catenin 1) in three families with butterfly-shaped pigment dystrophy. In addition, we identified a Ctnna1 missense mutation in a chemically induced mouse mutant, tvrm5. Parallel clinical phenotypes were observed in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) of individuals with butterfly-shaped pigment dystrophy and in tvrm5 mice, including pigmentary abnormalities, focal thickening and elevated lesions, and decreased light-activated responses. Morphological studies in tvrm5 mice demonstrated increased cell shedding and the presence of large multinucleated RPE cells, suggesting defects in intercellular adhesion and cytokinesis. This study identifies CTNNA1 gene variants as a cause of macular dystrophy, indicates that CTNNA1 is involved in maintaining RPE integrity and suggests that other components that participate in intercellular adhesion may be implicated in macular disease.