Multiple DNA polymerases exist in eukaryotes. Polymerases alpha, delta and epsilon are mainly responsible for chromosomal DNA replication in the nucleus and are required for proliferation. In contrast, the repair polymerases beta and eta are not essential for cellular proliferation in yeast or mice, but a lack of either polymerase can lead, respectively, to defects in base excision repair or the ability to replicate past lesions induced by ultraviolet (UV) radiation [1-3]. Here, we have focused on polymerase zeta. This was first described as a non-essential product of the yeast REV3/REV7 genes involved in UV-induced mutagenesis, and was later implicated in trans-lesion synthesis [4,5]. Unlike in yeast, the mouse homologue (mRev3) was found to be essential for life. Homozygous mutant mice died in utero. Mutant embryos were considerably reduced in size at day 10.5 of development and usually aborted around day 12.5. It is likely that this block reflects a need for mRev3 in proliferative clonal expansion (rather than in the production of a particular cell type) as mutant blastocysts showed greatly diminished expansion of the inner cell mass in culture. Thus, mRev3 could be required to repair a form of externally induced DNA damage that otherwise accumulates during clonal expansion or, consistent with the high homology shared between its Rev7 partner and the mitotic checkpoint gene product Mad2 , mRev3 might play a role in cell proliferation and genomic stability even in the absence of environmentally induced damage.