SLAMseq resolves the kinetics of maternal and zygotic gene expression during early zebrafish embryogenesis

Cell Rep. 2023 Feb 28;42(2):112070. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2023.112070. Epub 2023 Feb 8.


The maternal-to-zygotic transition (MZT) is a key developmental process in metazoan embryos that involves the activation of zygotic transcription (ZGA) and degradation of maternal transcripts. We employed metabolic mRNA sequencing (SLAMseq) to deconvolute the compound embryonic transcriptome in zebrafish. While mitochondrial zygotic transcripts prevail prior to MZT, we uncover the spurious transcription of hundreds of short and intron-poor genes as early as the 2-cell stage. Upon ZGA, most zygotic transcripts originate from thousands of maternal-zygotic (MZ) genes that are transcribed at rates comparable to those of hundreds of purely zygotic genes and replenish maternal mRNAs at distinct timescales. Rapid replacement of MZ transcripts involves transcript decay features unrelated to major maternal degradation pathways and promotes de novo synthesis of the core gene expression machinery by increasing poly(A)-tail length and translation efficiency. SLAMseq hence provides insights into the timescales, molecular features, and regulation of MZT during zebrafish embryogenesis.

Keywords: CP: Developmental biology; embryogenesis; maternal-to-zygotic transition; metabolic RNA sequencing; zebrafish; zygotic genome activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryonic Development* / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Transcriptome / genetics
  • Zebrafish* / metabolism
  • Zygote / metabolism


  • RNA, Messenger