Embryogenesis in higher plants is controlled by a complex gene network. Identification and characterization of genes essential for embryogenesis will provide insights into the early events in embryo development. In this study, a novel mutant with aborted seed development (asd) was identified in Arabidopsis. The asd mutant produced about 25% of albino seeds at the early stage of silique development. The segregation of normal and albino seeds was inherited as a single recessive embryo-lethal trait. The gene disrupted in the asd mutant was isolated through map-based cloning. The mutated gene contains a single base change (A to C) in the coding region of RPL21C (At1g35680) that is predicted to encode the chloroplast 50S ribosomal protein L21. Allele test with other two T-DNA insertion lines in RPL21C and a complementation test demonstrated that the mutation in RPL21C was responsible for the asd phenotype. RPL21C exhibits higher expression in leaves and flowers compared with expression levels in roots and developing seeds. The RPL21C-GFP fusion protein was localized in chloroplasts. Cytological observations showed that the asd embryo development was arrested at the globular stage. There were no plastids with normal thylakoids and as a result no normal chloroplasts formed in mutant cells, indicating an indispensable role of the ASD gene in chloroplasts biogenesis. Our studies suggest that the chloroplast ribosomal protein L21 gene is required for chloroplast development and embryogenesis in Arabidopsis.