Zygotic gene activation (ZGA) is the first event of gene expression after fertilization. Following fertilization, ZGA occurs within a short time interval depending on the animal species. Until ZGA, maternal proteins and transcripts stored in oocytes control embryonic development, indicating the importance of maternal factors for development. Somatic cell cloning also proves the potential of oocyte to reprogram the differentiated cell nuclei to embryonic nuclei. Recent studies show that the epigenetic modifications of nuclei play important roles in controlling gene expression during ZGA. However, the mechanisms that control ZGA remain largely unknown. This review will cover the current understanding of ZGA. Specifically, it will focus on the maternal factors that control gene expression during early embryogenesis.
2007 Society for Reproduction and Development