A 6.4-kb sequence upstream of the mouse blue visual pigment gene has been assayed in transgenic mice for the ability to direct cell-type-specific expression of a linked beta-galactosidase (lacZ) reporter. The construct is expressed specifically in cone photoreceptors in three independent lines. Transgene expression is found in the developing retina on the first postnatal day, increases rapidly in subsequent days, and persists through adulthood. A gradient of transgene expression is observed across the retina, with the transgene-expressing cones found almost exclusively in the lower retina and rarely in the upper retina, a pattern that parallels the distribution of blue cones in the mouse retina. Double-labeling with anti-cone pigment antibodies shows that transgene expression is confined to blue cones. These results imply that all of the sequence elements necessary for the control of blue cone-specific expression are encoded within the 6.4-kb DNA fragment tested.