The X-linked DEAD-box RNA helicase DDX3 (DDX3X) is a multifunctional protein that has been implicated in gene regulation, cell cycle control, apoptosis, and tumorigenesis. However, the precise physiological function of Ddx3x during development remains unknown. Here, we show that loss of Ddx3x results in an early post-implantation lethality in male mice. The size of the epiblast marked by Oct3/4 is dramatically reduced in embryonic day 6.5 (E6.5) Ddx3x/Y embryos. Preferential paternal X chromosome inactivation (XCI) in extraembryonic tissues of Ddx3x heterozygous (Ddx3x−/+) female mice with a maternally inherited null allele leads to placental abnormalities and embryonic lethality during development. In the embryonic tissues, Ddx3x exhibits developmental- and tissue-specific differences in escape from XCI. Targeted Ddx3x ablation in the epiblast leads to widespread apoptosis and abnormal growth, which causes embryonic lethality in the Sox2-cre/+;Ddx3xflox/Y mutant around E11.5. The observation of significant increases in γH2AX and p-p53Ser15 indicates DNA damage, which suggests that loss of Ddx3x leads to higher levels of genome damage. Significant upregulation of p21WAF1/Cip1 and p15Ink4b results in cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in Ddx3x-deficient cells. These results have uncovered that mouse Ddx3x is essential for both embryo and extraembryonic development.

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