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The development of multicellular animals is initially controlled by maternal gene products deposited in the oocyte. During the maternal-to-zygotic transition, transcription of zygotic genes commences, and developmental control starts to be regulated by zygotic gene products. In Drosophila, the transcription factor Zelda specifically binds to promoters of the earliest zygotic genes and primes them for activation. It is unknown whether a similar regulation exists in other animals. We found that zebrafish Pou5f1, a homolog of the mammalian pluripotency transcription factor Oct4, occupies SOX-POU binding sites before the onset of zygotic transcription and activates the earliest zygotic genes. Our data position Pou5f1 and SOX-POU sites at the center of the zygotic gene activation network of vertebrates and provide a link between zygotic gene activation and pluripotency control.


Manuel Leichsenring, Julia Maes, Rebecca Mössner, Wolfgang Driever, Daria Onichtchouk. Pou5f1 transcription factor controls zygotic gene activation in vertebrates. Science (New York, N.Y.). 2013 Aug 30;341(6149):1005-9

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PMID: 23950494

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