Following implantation, mouse epiblast cells transit from a naive to a primed state in which they are competent for both somatic and primordial germ cell (PGC) specification. Using mouse embryonic stem cells as an in vitro model to study the transcriptional regulatory principles orchestrating peri-implantation development, here we show that the transcription factor Foxd3 is necessary for exit from naive pluripotency and progression to a primed pluripotent state. During this transition, Foxd3 acts as a repressor that dismantles a significant fraction of the naive pluripotency expression program through decommissioning of active enhancers associated with key naive pluripotency and early germline genes. Subsequently, Foxd3 needs to be silenced in primed pluripotent cells to allow re-activation of relevant genes required for proper PGC specification. Our findings therefore uncover a cycle of activation and deactivation of Foxd3 required for exit from naive pluripotency and subsequent PGC specification.
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