The RPE65 protein appears late during the retinal development. To study the basis for this regulation, the rat RPE65 cDNA was sequenced and the mRNA subsequently quantitated at various stages by competitive RT-PCR. RPE65 mRNA was detected as early as E18 (36 copies/ng of whole eye total RNA). It gradually accumulates up to P12 (27000 copies/ng) at which point it reaches a steady state level. This increase is interrupted for 3 days (P2-P4) during which the levels of mRNA remain stable. This timing and rate of accumulation parallels that of rat and mouse opsin mRNA and suggests that common factors may control the activation of genes in photoreceptors and retinal pigment epithelium cells.