Retinoschisin is a 24-kDa discoidin domain-containing protein that is secreted from photoreceptor and bipolar cells as a large disulfide-linked multisubunit complex. It functions as a cell adhesion protein to maintain the cellular organization and synaptic structure of the retina. Over 125 different mutations in the RS1 gene are associated with X-linked juvenile retinoschisis, the most common form of early onset macular degeneration in males. To identify molecular determinants important for retinoschisin structure and function and elucidate molecular and cellular mechanisms responsible for X-linked juvenile retinoschisis, we have analyzed the expression, protein folding, disulfide-linked subunit assembly, intracellular localization, and secretion of wild-type retinoschisin, 15 Cys-to-Ser variants and 12 disease-linked mutants. Our studies, together with molecular modeling of the discoidin domain, identify Cys residues involved in intramolecular and intermolecular disulfide bonds essential for protein folding and subunit assembly. We show that misfolding of the discoidin domain, defective disulfide-linked subunit assembly, and inability of retinoschisin to insert into the endoplasmic reticulum membrane as part of the protein secretion process are three primary mechanisms responsible for the loss in the function of retinoschisin as a cell adhesion protein and the pathogenesis of X-linked juvenile retinoschisis.