How maternal factors in oocytes initiate zygotic genome activation (ZGA) remains elusive in mammals, partly due to the challenge of de novo identification of key factors using scarce materials. Two-cell (2C)-like cells have been widely used as an in vitro model in order to understand mouse ZGA and totipotency because of their expression of a group of two-cell embryo-specific genes and their simplicity for genetic manipulation. Recent studies indicate that DPPA2 and DPPA4 are required for establishing the 2C-like state in mouse embryonic stem cells in a DUX-dependent manner. These results suggest that DPPA2 and DPPA4 are essential maternal factors that regulate Dux and ZGA in embryos. By analyzing maternal knockout and maternal-zygotic knockout embryos, we unexpectedly found that DPPA2 and DPPA4 are dispensable for Dux activation, ZGA and pre-implantation development. Our study suggests that 2C-like cells do not fully recapitulate two-cell embryos in terms of regulation of two-cell embryo-specific genes, and, therefore, caution should be taken when studying ZGA and totipotency using 2C-like cells as the model system.

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