The orphan nuclear receptor RORbeta is expressed in areas of the central nervous system which are involved in the processing of sensory information, including spinal cord, thalamus and sensory cerebellar cortices. Additionally, RORbeta localizes to the three principal anatomical components of the mammalian timing system, the suprachiasmatic nuclei, the retina and the pineal gland. RORbeta mRNA levels oscillate in retina and pineal gland with a circadian rhythm that persists in constant darkness. RORbeta-/- mice display a duck-like gait, transient male incapability to sexually reproduce, and a severely disorganized retina that suffers from postnatal degeneration. Consequently, adult RORbeta-/- mice are blind, yet their circadian activity rhythm is still entrained by light-dark cycles. Interestingly, under conditions of constant darkness, RORbeta-/- mice display an extended period of free-running rhythmicity. The overall behavioral phenotype of RORbeta-/- mice, together with the chromosomal localization of the RORbeta gene, suggests a close relationship to the spontaneous mouse mutation vacillans described >40 years ago.