Arrestin (also named '48 kDa protein' or 'S-antigen') is a soluble protein involved in controlling light-dependent cGMP phosphodiesterase activity in retinal rods, and is also known for its ability to induce autoimmune uveitis of the eye. We report a rapid and simple purification method based on the property of arrestin to bind specifically and reversibly to illuminated and phosphorylated rhodopsin [(1984) FEBS Lett. 176, 473-478]. This method does not require column chromatography and yields about 2-4 mg purified arrestin from 15 bovine retinas. Pure arrestin can be resolved by isoelectric focusing into at least 10 distinct bands, all of which stain with a monoclonal antibody specific for S-antigen.