Some of the earliest transcripts produced in fertilized human and mouse oocytes code for DUX, a double homeodomain protein that promotes embryonic genome activation (EGA). Deleting Dux by genome editing at the 1- to 2-cell stage in the mouse impairs EGA and blastocyst maturation. Here, we demonstrate that mice carrying homozygous Dux deletions display markedly reduced expression of DUX target genes and defects in both pre- and post-implantation development, with notably a disruption of the pace of the first few cell divisions and significant rates of late embryonic mortality. However, some Dux-/- embryos give raise to viable pups, indicating that DUX is important but not strictly essential for embryogenesis.
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