Meox1 and Meox2 are two related homeodomain transcription factor genes that together are essential for the development of all somite compartments. Here we show that mice homozygous for Meox1 mutations alone have abnormalities that are restricted to the sclerotome and its derivatives. A prominent and consistent phenotype of these mutations is a remodeling of the cranio-cervical joints whose major feature is the assimilation of the atlas into the basioccipital bone so that the skull rests on the axis. These abnormalities can be traced back to changes in the relative rates of cell proliferation in the rostral and caudal sclerotome compartments, and they are associated with alterations in the expression of at least three transcription factor genes, Tbx18, Uncx, and Bapx1. As previously observed for Bapx1, MEOX1 protein occupies evolutionarily conserved promoter regions of Tbx18 and Uncx, suggesting that Meox1 regulates these genes at least in part directly. Hence, Meox1 is part of a regulatory circuit that serves an essential, non-redundant function in the maintenance of rostro-caudal sclerotome polarity and axial skeleton formation.