Cyclin-dependent kinases (Cdks) are the catalytic subunits of a family of mammalian heterodimeric serine/threonine kinases that have been implicated in the control of cell-cycle progression, transcription and neuronal function. Recent genetic evidence obtained with gene-targeted mice has shown that Cdk4 and Cdk6 are not needed for entry into the cell cycle after mitogenic stimuli and organogenesis; however, they are essential for the proliferation of some endocrine and hematopoietic cells. Cdk2 is also dispensable for the mitotic cell cycle. Indeed, mice without Cdk2 are normal except for their complete sterility: unexpectedly, Cdk2 is crucial for the first meiotic division of male and female germ cells. These findings have important implications both for our current understanding of the role of Cdks in regulating the mammalian cell cycle and for their potential use as therapeutic targets in cancer.