Sox2 is a key gene that controls transcriptional networks required for pluripotency. The role of Sox2 in the developmental transition of a highly differentiated oocyte to totipotent blastomeres of the early preimplantation embryo, however, is not known. We report that Sox2, which is localized in the nucleus, is first zygotically expressed during the 2-cell stage and that its expression dramatically increases between the morula and blastocyst stages. Injecting a cRNA encoding Sox2 into 1-cell embryos resulted in overexpression of SOX2 by approximately 70% and developmental arrest at the 2-cell stage, whereas injecting cRNAs encoding Pou5f1, Myc (also known as c-Myc), or Klf4 has little effect on the ability of 2-cell embryos to cleave to the 4-cell stage. Global transcription assessed by bromo uridine triphosphate incorporation is reduced by approximately 15%, and transcript profiling revealed that approximately 15% of zygotically expressed genes are dramatically repressed in 2-cell embryos overexpressing SOX2. Furthermore, overexpressing a dominant-negative SOX2 perturbs reprogramming of gene expression in 2-cell embryos, though to a much lesser extent than that observed following overexpression of SOX2, and leads to developmental failure after the 2-cell stage but before the 8-cell stage. Results of these experiments implicate Sox2 as a critical transcriptional regulator in the oocyte-to-embryo transition that entails formation of totipotent blastomeres and indicate that the amount of Sox2 is critical for successful execution of this transition.
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Vol. 85 • No. 2