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Genes Dev. 2006 Jul 1;20(13):1744-54.

Maternal BRG1 regulates zygotic genome activation in the mouse.

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Department of Genetics and The Carolina Center for Genome Sciences, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.


Zygotic genome activation (ZGA) is a nuclear reprogramming event that transforms the genome from transcriptional quiescence at fertilization to robust transcriptional activity shortly thereafter. The ensuing gene expression profile in the cleavage-stage embryo establishes totipotency and is required for further development. Although little is known about the molecular basis of ZGA, oocyte-derived mRNAs and proteins that alter chromatin structure are likely crucial. To test this hypothesis, we generated a maternal-effect mutation of Brg1, which encodes a catalytic subunit of SWI/SNF-related complexes, utilizing Cre-loxP gene targeting. In conditional-mutant females, BRG1-depleted oocytes completed meiosis and were fertilized. However, embryos conceived from BRG1-depleted eggs exhibited a ZGA phenotype including two-cell arrest and reduced transcription for approximately 30% of expressed genes. Genes involved in transcription, RNA processing, and cell cycle regulation were particularly affected. The early embryonic arrest is not a consequence of a defective oocyte because depleting maternal BRG1 after oocyte development is complete by RNA interference (RNAi) also resulted in two-cell arrest. To our knowledge, Brg1 is the first gene required for ZGA in mammals. Depletion of maternal BRG1 did not affect global levels of histone acetylation, whereas dimethyl-H3K4 levels were reduced. These data provide a framework for understanding the mechanism of ZGA.

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