The key cell-cycle regulator Cdc2 belongs to a family of cyclin-dependent kinases in higher eukaryotes. Dominant-negative mutations were used to address the requirement for kinases of this family in progression through the human cell cycle. A dominant-negative Cdc2 mutant arrested cells at the G2 to M phase transition, whereas mutants of the cyclin-dependent kinases Cdk2 and Cdk3 caused a G1 block. The mutant phenotypes were specifically rescued by the corresponding wild-type kinases. These data reveal that Cdk3, in addition to Cdc2 and Cdk2, executes a distinct and essential function in the mammalian cell cycle.