Bone morphogenetic protein 8B (BMP8B) is a member of the TGFbeta superfamily of growth factors. In the mouse, Bmp8b is expressed in male germ cells of the testis and trophoblast cells of the placenta, suggesting that it has a role in spermatogenesis and reproduction. To investigate these possibilities, we have generated mice with a targeted mutation in Bmp8b. Here, we show that homozygous Bmp8b(tm1blh) mutant males exhibit variable degrees of germ-cell deficiency and infertility. Detailed analysis reveals two separable defects in the homozygous mutant testes. First, during early puberty (2 weeks old or younger) the germ cells of all homozygous mutants either fail to proliferate or show a marked reduction in proliferation and a delayed differentiation. Second, in adults, there is a significant increase in programmed cell death (apoptosis) of spermatocytes, leading to germ-cell depletion and sterility. Sertoli cells and Leydig cells appear relatively unaffected in mutants. This study therefore provides the first genetic evidence that a murine germ cell-produced factor, BMP8B, is required for the resumption of male germ-cell proliferation in early puberty, and for germ-cell survival and fertility in the adult.