RPE65 is a potential retinoid-processing protein expressed in the retinal pigment epithelium. Mutations in the RPE65 gene have been shown to cause certain inherited retinal dystrophies. Previous studies have shown that salamander cone photoreceptor cells have a unique retinoid processing mechanism which is distinct from that of rods. To determine whether RPE65 is expressed in photoreceptors, the RPE65 cDNA was cloned from a salamander retinal cDNA library. The deduced protein consists of 533 amino acids and is 85% identical to human and bovine RPE65. The RPE65 mRNA was detected in all of the single cone cells isolated from the salamander retina, as well as in the retinal pigment epithelium by RT-PCR, but not in the isolated rods. The RT-PCR products have been confirmed to be RPE65 by DNA sequencing. The results indicate that this potential retinoid processing protein is expressed in the cone photoreceptor cells but not in rods. Therefore, this protein may contribute to the unique retinoid processing capabilities in salamander cones.