MSH5 (MutS homologue 5) is a member of a family of proteins known to be involved in DNA mismatch repair. Germline mutations in MSH2, MLH1 and GTBP (also known as MSH6) cause hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC) or Lynch syndrome. Inactivation of Msh2, Mlh1, Gtmbp (also known as Msh6) or Pms2 in mice leads to hereditary predisposition to intestinal and other cancers. Early studies in yeast revealed a role for some of these proteins, including Msh5, in meiosis. Gene targeting studies in mice confirmed roles for Mlh1 and Pms2 in mammalian meiosis. To assess the role of Msh5 in mammals, we generated and characterized mice with a null mutation in Msh5. Msh5-/- mice are viable but sterile. Meiosis in these mice is affected due to the disruption of chromosome pairing in prophase I. We found that this meiotic failure leads to a diminution in testicular size and a complete loss of ovarian structures. Our results show that normal Msh5 function is essential for meiotic progression and, in females, gonadal maintenance.