CDC45 is required for the initiation of DNA replication in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and functions as a DNA polymerase alpha loading factor in Xenopus, but its role in mammalian DNA replication is unknown. To investigate the genetic and physiological functions of CDC45, we used a gene targeting strategy to generate mice lacking a functional CDC45 gene. Homozygous mutant mice lacking a functional CDC45 gene underwent uterine implantation and induced uterine decidualization but did not develop substantially thereafter. Detailed analysis of CDC45 null embryos cultured in vitro revealed impaired proliferation of the inner cell mass. These findings make CDC45 the only putative replication factor experimentally proven to be essential for mammalian development. The CDC45 gene localizes to human chromosome 22q11.2 in the DiGeorge syndrome critical region (DGCR). Almost 90% of individuals with congenital cardiac and craniofacial defects have a monoallelic deletion in the DGCR that includes CDC45. We report here that heterozygous mutant mice develop into adulthood without any apparent abnormalities, so that it is unlikely that hemizygosity of CDC45 alone is responsible for the cardiac and craniofacial defects in the congenital syndromes.