Genes associated with inherited retinal degeneration have been found to encode proteins required for phototransduction, metabolism, or structural support of photoreceptors. Here we show that mutations in a novel photoreceptor-specific homeodomain transcription factor gene (CRX) cause an autosomal dominant form of cone-rod dystrophy (adCRD) at the CORD2 locus on chromosome 19q13. In affected members of a CORD2-linked family, the highly conserved glutamic acid at the first position of the recognition helix is replaced by alanine (E80A). In another CRD family, a 1 bp deletion (E168 [delta1 bp]) within a novel sequence, the WSP motif, predicts truncation of the C-terminal 132 residues of CRX. Mutations in the CRX gene cause adCRD either by haploinsufficiency or by a dominant negative effect and demonstrate that CRX is essential for the maintenance of mammalian photoreceptors.