The influence of signals transmitted by the phosphatase calcineurin and the transcription factor NFAT on the development and function of natural killer T (NKT) cells is unclear. In this report, we demonstrate that the transcription factor early growth response 2 (Egr2), a target gene of NFAT, was specifically required for the ontogeny of NKT cells but not that of conventional CD4(+) or CD8(+) T cells. NKT cells developed normally in the absence of Egr1 or Egr3, which suggests that Egr2 is a specific regulator of NKT cell differentiation. We found that Egr2 was important in the selection, survival and maturation of NKT cells. Our findings emphasize the importance of the calcineurin-NFAT-Egr2 pathway in the development of the NKT lymphocyte lineage.