Mutations in the gene encoding the beta subunit of rod cGMP phosphodiesterase are known causes of photoreceptor degeneration in two animal models of retinitis pigmentosa, the rd (retinal degeneration) mouse and the Irish setter dog with rod/cone dysplasia. Here we report a screen of 92 unrelated patients with autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa for defects in the human homologue of this gene. We identified seven different mutations that cosegregate with the disease. They were found among four patients with each patient heterozygously carrying two mutations. All of these mutations are predicted to affect the putative catalytic domain, probably leading to a decrease in phosphodiesterase activity and an increase in cGMP levels within rod photoreceptors. Mutations in the gene encoding the beta subunit of rod phosphodiesterase are the most common identified cause of autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa, accounting for approximately 4% of cases in North America.