Human DDX11 and DDX12 are closely related genes encoding the helicases ChlR1 and ChlR2, which belong to the CHL1 DNA helicase family. Recently, it was shown that human ChlR1 interacts with components of the cohesin complex and is required for proper centromeric cohesion. To establish the function of ChlR1 in development we made a mutant mouse lacking Ddx11, the single mouse ChlR gene. The absence of Ddx11 resulted in embryonic lethality at E10.5. The mutant embryos were smaller in size, malformed and exhibited sparse cellularity in comparison to normal or heterozygous litter mates. Importantly, loss of Ddx11 resulted in the inability to form a proper placenta, indicating that ChlR1 is essential for placental formation. Detailed analysis of cells isolated from Ddx11-/- embryos revealed a G2/M cell cycle delay, an increased frequency of chromosome missegregation, decreased chromosome cohesion, and increased aneuploidy. To examine whether ChlR proteins are required for arm cohesion and for loading of the cohesin complex, further studies were preformed in ChlR1 siRNA treated cells. These studies revealed that ChlR1 is required for proper sister chromatid arm cohesion and that cohesin complexes bind more loosely to chromatin in the absence of ChlR1. Taken together, these studies provide the first data indicating that the ChlR1 helicase is essential for proper binding of the cohesin complex to both the centromere and the chromosome arms, and indicate that ChlR1 is essential for embryonic development and the prevention of aneuploidy in mammals.