Abstract The highly conserved AAA ATPase p97 (VCP/CDC48) has well-established roles in cell cycle progression, proteasome degradation and membrane dynamics. Gene disruption in Saccromyces cerevisiae, Drosophila melanogaster and Trypanosoma brucei demonstrated that p97 is essential in unicellular and multicellular organisms. To explore the requirement for p97 in mammalian cell function and embryogenesis, we disrupted the p97 locus by gene targeting. Heterozygous p97 +/− mice were indistinguishable from their wild-type littermates, whereas homozygous mutants did not survive to birth and died at a peri-implantation stage. These results show that p97 is an essential gene for early mouse development.