P2X1 receptors for ATP are ligand-gated cation channels, present on many excitable cells including vas deferens smooth muscle cells. A substantial component of the contractile response of the vas deferens to sympathetic nerve stimulation, which propels sperm into the ejaculate, is mediated through P2X receptors. Here we show that male fertility is reduced by approximately 90% in mice with a targeted deletion of the P2X1 receptor gene. Male mice copulate normally--reduced fertility results from a reduction of sperm in the ejaculate and not from sperm dysfunction. Female mice and heterozygote mice are unaffected. In P2X1-receptor-deficient mice, contraction of the vas deferens to sympathetic nerve stimulation is reduced by up to 60% and responses to P2X receptor agonists are abolished. These results show that P2X1 receptors are essential for normal male reproductive function and suggest that the development of selective P2X1 receptor antagonists may provide an effective non-hormonal male contraceptive pill. Also, agents that potentiate the actions of ATP at P2X1 receptors may be useful in the treatment of male infertility.