E2F transcription factors control diverse biological processes through regulation of target gene expression. However, the mechanism by which this regulation is established, and the relative contribution of each E2F member are still poorly defined. We have investigated the role of E2F2 in regulating cellular proliferation. We show that E2F2 is required for the normal G(0)/G(1) phase because targeted disruption of the E2F2 gene causes T cells to enter S phase early and to undergo accelerated cell division. A large set of E2F target genes involved in DNA replication and cell cycle progression (such as Mcm's, cyclins and Cdc2a) that are silent in G(0) and typically transcribed late in G(1) phase are already actively expressed in quiescent T cells and MEFs lacking E2F2. The classic E2F activators, E2F1 and E2F3, are largely dispensable for this process because compound loss of E2F1(-/-) and E2F2(-/-) produces a comparably shortened G(0)/G(1) phase, with early S phase entry. Likewise, shRNA knockdown of E2F3 does not alter significantly the E2F2(-/-) phenotype. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis indicates that in wild-type cells the promoters of the aberrantly early-transcribed genes are occupied by E2F2 in G(0), suggesting a direct role for E2F2 in transcriptional repression. We conclude that E2F2 functions to transcriptionally repress cell cycle genes to establish the G(0) state.