We targeted the locus encoding the cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (CDK2) by homologous recombination in mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells. Embryonic fibroblasts lacking CDK2 proliferate normally and become immortal after continuous passage in culture. Elimination of a conditional Cdk2 allele in immortal cells does not have a significant effect on proliferation. Cdk2-/- mice are viable and survive for up to two years, indicating that CDK2 is also dispensable for proliferation and survival of most cell types. But CDK2 is essential for completion of prophase I during meiotic cell division in male and female germ cells, an unforeseen role for this cell cycle kinase.