Voltage-dependent anion channels (VDACs, also known as mitochondrial porins) are small pore-forming proteins of the mitochondrial outer membrane found in all eukaryotes. Mammals harbor three distinct VDAC isoforms, with each protein sharing 65-70% sequence identity. Deletion of the yeast VDAC1 gene leads to conditional lethality that can be partially or completely complemented by the mammalian VDAC genes. In vitro, VDACs conduct a variety of small metabolites and in vivo they serve as a binding site for several cytosolic kinases involved in intermediary metabolism, yet the specific physiologic role of each isoform is unknown. Here we show that mouse embryonic stem cells lacking each isoform are viable but exhibit a 30% reduction in oxygen consumption. VDAC1 and VDAC2 deficient cells exhibit reduced cytochrome c oxidase activity, whereas VDAC3 deficient cells have normal activity. These results indicate that VDACs are not essential for cell viability and we speculate that reduced respiration in part reflects decreased outer membrane permeability for small metabolites necessary for oxidative phosphorylation.