In mouse development, transcription is first detected in late 1-cell embryos, but translation of newly synthesized transcripts does not begin until the 2-cell stage. Thus, the onset of zygotic gene expression (ZGE) is regulated at the level of both transcription and translation. Chromatin-mediated repression is established after formation of a 2-cell embryo, concurrent with the developmental acquisition of enhancer function. The most effective enhancer in cleavage stage mouse embryos depends on DNA binding sites for TEF-1, the prototype for a family of transcription factors that share the same TEA DNA binding domain. Mice contain at least four, and perhaps five, genes with the same TEA DNA binding domain (mTEAD genes). Since mTEAD-2 is the only one expressed during the first 7 days of mouse development, it is most likely responsible for the TEAD transcription factor activity that first appears at the beginning of ZGE. All four mTEAD genes are expressed at later embryonic stages and in adult tissues; virtually every tissue expresses at least one family member, consistent with a critical role for TEAD proteins in either cell proliferation or differentiation. The 72-amino acid TEA DNA binding domains in mTEAD-2, 3, and 4 are approximately 99% homologous to the same domain in mTEAD-1, and all four proteins bind specifically to the same DNA sequences in vitro with a Kd value of 16-38 nM DNA. Since TEAD proteins appear to be involved in both activation and repression of different genes and do not appear to be functionally redundant, differential activity of TEAD proteins must result either from association with other proteins or from differential sensitivity to chromatin-packaged DNA binding sites.