The c-abl proto-oncogene, which encodes a cytoplasmic protein-tyrosine kinase, is expressed throughout murine gestation and ubiquitously in adult mouse tissues. However, its levels are highest in thymus, spleen, and testes. To examine the in vivo role of c-abl, the gene was disrupted in embryonic stem cells, and the resulting genetically modified cells were used to establish a mouse strain carrying the mutation. Most mice homozygous for the c-abl mutation became runted and died 1 to 2 weeks after birth. In addition, many showed thymic and splenic atrophy and a T and B cell lymphopenia.