Deletions or rearrangements of human chromosome 22q11 lead to a variety of related clinical syndromes such as DiGeorge syndrome (DGS) and velo--cardiofacial syndrome (VCFS). In addition, patients with 22q11 deletions have an increased incidence of schizophrenia and several studies have mapped susceptibility loci for schizophrenia to this region. Human molecular genetic studies have so far failed to identify the crucial genes or disruption mechanisms that result in these disorders. We have used gene targeting in the mouse to delete a defined region within the conserved DGS critical region (DGCR) on mouse chromosome 16 to prospectively investigate the role of the mouse DGCR in 22q11 syndromes. The deletion spans a conserved portion ( approximately 150 kb) of the proximal region of the DGCR, containing at least seven genes ( Znf74l, Idd, Tsk1, Tsk2, Es2, Gscl and Ctp ). Mice heterozygous for this deletion display no findings of DGS/VCFS in either inbred or mixed backgrounds. However, heterozygous mice display an increase in prepulse inhibition of the startle response, a manifestation of sensorimotor gating that is reduced in humans with schizophrenia. Homozygous deleted mice die soon after implantation, demonstrating that the deleted region contains genes essential for early post-implantation embryonic development. These results suggest that heterozygous deletion of this portion of the DGCR is sufficient for sensorimotor gating abnormalities, but not sufficient to produce the common features of DGS/VCFS in the mouse.