Neonatal breathing in mammals involves multiple neuronal circuits, but its genetic basis remains unclear. Mice deficient for the zinc finger protein Teashirt 3 (TSHZ3) fail to breathe and die at birth. Tshz3 is expressed in multiple areas of the brainstem involved in respiration, including the pre-Bötzinger complex (preBötC), the embryonic parafacial respiratory group (e-pF), and cranial motoneurons that control the upper airways. Tshz3 inactivation led to pronounced cell death of motoneurons in the nucleus ambiguus and induced strong alterations of rhythmogenesis in the e-pF oscillator. In contrast, the preBötC oscillator appeared to be unaffected. These deficits result in impaired upper airway function, abnormal central respiratory rhythm generation, and altered responses to pH changes. Thus, a single gene, Tshz3, controls the development of diverse components of the circuitry required for breathing.