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CDK5 and Abl enzyme substrate 2 (Cables2), a member of the Cables family that has a C-terminal cyclin box-like domain, is widely expressed in adult mouse tissues. However, the physiological role of Cables2 in vivo is unknown. We show here that Cables2 -deficiency causes post-gastrulation embryonic lethality in mice. The mutant embryos progress to gastrulation, but then arrest, and fail to grow. Analysis of gene expression patterns reveals that formation of the anterior visceral endoderm and the primitive streak is impaired in Cables2 -deficient embryos. Tetraploid complementation analyses support the critical requirement of Cables2 in both the epiblast and visceral endoderm for progression of embryogenesis. In addition, we show that Cables2 physically interacts with a key mediator of the canonical Nodal pathway, Smad2, and augments its transcriptional activity. These findings provide novel insights into the essential role of Cables2 in the early embryonic development in mice.

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