PURPOSE. To investigate whether and how the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) gene cNSCL2 is involved in retinal development. METHODS. cNSCL2, the chick homologue of human NSCL2, was isolated and sequenced. In situ hybridization was used to examine its spatial and temporal expression pattern in the retina. Replication-competent retrovirus RCAS was used to drive cNSCL2 misexpression in the developing chick retina, and the effect of the misexpression was analyzed. RESULTS. Expression of cNSCL2 in the retina was restricted. Its mRNA was detected in amacrine and horizontal cells, but not in photoreceptor, bipolar, or ganglion cells. Retroviral-driven misexpression of cNSCL2 in the developing chick retina resulted in missing photoreceptor cells and gross deficits in the outer nuclear layer (ONL). These deficits were probably not because of decreased photoreceptor production, in that the ONL appeared normal in early developmental stages. TUNEL + cells were detected in the ONL, indicating that photoreceptor cells underwent apoptosis in retinas misexpressing cNSCL2. Müller glial cells were far fewer in the experimental retina than in the control, indicating that cNSCL2 also caused Müller glia atrophy. The onset of Müller glia disappearance preceded that of photoreceptor degeneration. CONCLUSIONS. Expression of cNSCL2 in the chick retina was restricted to amacrine and horizontal cells. Misexpression of cNSCL2 caused severe retinal degeneration, and photoreceptor cells and Müller glia were particularly affected. Copyright © Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.