We have isolated and partially characterized a 32-kDa membrane-associated protein (p32), which forms a complex with p63, an abundant membrane protein in bovine retinal pigment epithelium. The sequence of a cDNA clone for p32 revealed an open reading frame encoding 318 amino acid residues. Several hydrophobic regions could be identified, suggesting that p32 is an integral membrane protein. A search of data bases identified p32 as a member of the superfamily of short chain alcohol dehydrogenases. Transcripts for p32 were specifically expressed in retinal pigment epithelium. Overexpression of p32 in Cos cells produced a membrane-bound stereospecific 11-cis retinol dehydrogenase, active in the presence of NAD+ as cofactor but not in the presence of NADP. We propose that p32 is the stereospecific 11-cis retinol dehydrogenase, which catalyzes the final step in the biosynthesis of 11-cis retinaldehyde, the universal chromophore of visual pigments.