Rod outer segments (ROS) from frog retina have been purified by Percoll density gradient centrifugation, a procedure that preserves their form and intactness. One- and two-dimensional electrophoretic analysis reveals a smaller number of proteins than is observed in many cell organelles and permits quantitation of the 20 most abundant polypeptides. Rhodopsin accounts for 70% of the total protein (3 X 10(9) copies/outer segment), and approximately 70 other polypeptides are present at more than 6 X 10(4) copies/outer segment. Another 17% of the total protein is accounted for by the G-protein (3 X 10(8) copies/outer segment) that links rhodopsin bleaching and the activation of cyclic GMP phosphodiesterase (PDE). The phosphodiesterase accounts for 1.5% of the protein (1.5 X 10(7) copies/outer segment), and a 48,000-dalton component that binds to the membrane in the light accounts for a further 2.6%. The function of approximately 90% of the total protein in the outer segment is known, and two-thirds of the non-rhodopsin protein is accounted for by enzyme activities associated with cyclic GMP metabolism. The relative molar abundance of rhodopsin, G-protein, and PDE is 100:10:1. Apart from these major membrane-associated proteins, most of the other proteins are cytosolic. Thirteen other polypeptides are found at an abundance of one or more copies per 1000 rhodopsins, nine soluble and four membrane-bound, and their abundance relative to rhodopsin has been quantitated. ROS have been separated into subcellular fractions which resolve three classes of soluble, extrinsic membrane, and integral membrane proteins. A listing of the proteins that are phosphorylated and their subcellular localization is given. Approximately 25 phosphopeptides are detected, and most are in the soluble fraction. Fewer phosphorylated proteins are associated with the purified outer segments than with crude ROS. Distinct patterns of phosphorylation are associated with intact rods incubated with [32P]Pi and broken rods incubated with [gamma-32P]ATP.