Pluripotency Factors Determine Gene Expression Repertoire at Zygotic Genome Activation

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Awakening of zygotic transcription in animal embryos relies on maternal pioneer transcription factors. The interplay of global and specific functions of these proteins remains poorly understood. Here, we analyze chromatin accessibility and time-resolved transcription in single and double mutant zebrafish embryos lacking pluripotency factors Pou5f3 and Sox19b. We show that two factors modify chromatin in a largely independent manner. We distinguish four types of direct enhancers by differential requirements for Pou5f3 or Sox19b. We demonstrate that changes in chromatin accessibility of enhancers underlie the changes in zygotic expression repertoire in the double mutants. Pou5f3 or Sox19b promote chromatin accessibility of enhancers linked to the genes involved in gastrulation and ventral fate specification. The genes regulating mesendodermal and dorsal fates are primed for activation independently of Pou5f3 and Sox19b. Strikingly, simultaneous loss of Pou5f3 and Sox19b leads to premature expression of genes, involved in regulation of organogenesis and differentiation.