Cadherin cell adhesion molecules play crucial roles in vertebrate development including the development of the retina. Most studies have focused on examining functions of classic cadherins (e.g. N-cadherin) in retinal development. There is little information on the function of protocadherins in the development of the vertebrate visual system. We previously showed that protocadherin-17 mRNA was expressed in developing zebrafish retina during critical stages of the retinal development. To gain insight into protocadherin-17 function in the formation of the retina, we analyzed eye development and differentiation of retinal cells in zebrafish embryos injected with protocadherin-17 specific antisense morpholino oligonucleotides (MOs). Protocadherin-17 knockdown embryos (pcdh17 morphants) had significantly reduced eyes due mainly to decreased cell proliferation. Differentiation of several retinal cell types (e.g. retinal ganglion cells) was also disrupted in the pcdh17 morphants. Phenotypic rescue was achieved by injection of protocadherin-17 mRNA. Injection of a vivo-protocadherin-17 MO into one eye of embryonic zebrafish resulted in similar eye defects. Our results suggest that protocadherin-17 plays an important role in the normal formation of the zebrafish retina.