Estrogens influence the differentiation and maintenance of reproductive tissues and affect lipid metabolism and bone remodeling. Two estrogen receptors (ERs) have been identified to date, ERalpha and ERbeta. We previously generated and studied knockout mice lacking estrogen receptor alpha and reported severe reproductive and behavioral phenotypes including complete infertility of both male and female mice and absence of breast tissue development. Here we describe the generation of mice lacking estrogen receptor beta (ERbeta -/-) by insertion of a neomycin resistance gene into exon 3 of the coding gene by using homologous recombination in embryonic stem cells. Mice lacking this receptor develop normally and are indistinguishable grossly and histologically as young adults from their littermates. RNA analysis and immunocytochemistry show that tissues from ERbeta -/- mice lack normal ERbeta RNA and protein. Breeding experiments with young, sexually mature females show that they are fertile and exhibit normal sexual behavior, but have fewer and smaller litters than wild-type mice. Superovulation experiments indicate that this reduction in fertility is the result of reduced ovarian efficiency. The mutant females have normal breast development and lactate normally. Young, sexually mature male mice show no overt abnormalities and reproduce normally. Older mutant males display signs of prostate and bladder hyperplasia. Our results indicate that ERbeta is essential for normal ovulation efficiency but is not essential for female or male sexual differentiation, fertility, or lactation. Future experiments are required to determine the role of ERbeta in bone and cardiovascular homeostasis.