EMSY interacts directly with BRCA2 and links the BRCA2 pathway to sporadic breast and ovarian cancer. It also interacts with BS69 and HP1b, both of which are involved in chromatin remodelling, and with NIF-1 and DBC-1 in the regulation of nuclear receptor-mediated transcription. Here we investigate the function of EMSY during amphibian development, and in doing so provide the first loss-of-function analysis of this protein. Injection of Xenopus tropicalis embryos with antisense morpholino oligonucleotides targeting XtEMSY impairs gastrulation movements, disrupts dorsal structures, and kills embryos by tailbud stages. Consistent with these observations, regional markers such as Xbra, Chd, Gsc, Shh, Sox3 and Sox17 are downregulated. In contrast to these regional markers, expression of p53 is upregulated in such embryos, and at later stages Bax expression is elevated and apoptotic cells can be detected. Our results demonstrate that EMSY has an essential role in development and they provide an in vivo loss-of-function model that might be used to explore the biochemical functions of this protein in more detail.