High mobility group 1 (HMG1) protein is an abundant component of all mammalian nuclei, and related proteins exist in all eukaryotes. HMG1 binds linear DNA with moderate affinity and no sequence specificity, but bends the double helix significantly on binding through the minor groove. It binds with high affinity to DNA that is already sharply bent, such as linker DNA at the entry and exit of nucleosomes; thus, it is considered a structural protein of chromatin. HMG1 is also recruited to DNA by interactions with proteins required for basal and regulated transcriptions and V(D)J recombination. Here we generate mice harbouring deleted Hmg1. Hmg1-/- pups are born alive, but die within 24 hours due to hypoglycaemia. Hmg1-deficient mice survive for several days if given glucose parenterally, then waste away with pleiotropic defects (but no alteration in the immune repertoire). Cell lines lacking Hmg1 grow normally, but the activation of gene expression by the glucocorticoid receptor (GR, encoded by the gene Grl1) is impaired. Thus, Hmg1 is not essential for the overall organization of chromatin in the cell nucleus, but is critical for proper transcriptional control by specific transcription factors.