Ubiquitously expressed β-actin and γ-actin isoforms play critical roles in most cellular processes; however, their unique contributions are not well understood. We generated whole-body β-actin-knockout (Actb -/-) mice and demonstrated that β-actin is required for early embryonic development. Lethality of Actb -/- embryos correlated with severe growth impairment and migration defects in β-actin-knockout primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) that were not observed in γ-actin-null MEFs. Migration defects were associated with reduced membrane protrusion dynamics and increased focal adhesions. We also identified migration defects upon conditional ablation of β-actin in highly motile T cells. Of great interest, ablation of β-actin altered the ratio of globular actin (G-actin) to filamentous actin in MEFs, with corresponding changes in expression of genes that regulate the cell cycle and motility. These data support an essential role for β-actin in regulating cell migration and gene expression through control of the cellular G-actin pool.