Peptidyl arginine deiminase 6 (PADI6) is a maternal factor that is vital for early embryonic development. Deletion and mutations of its encoding gene in female mice or women lead to early embryonic developmental arrest, female infertility, maternal imprinting defects and hyperproliferation of the trophoblast. PADI6 is the fifth and least well-characterized member of the peptidyl arginine deiminases (PADIs), which catalyse the post-translational conversion of arginine to citrulline. It is less conserved than the other PADIs, and currently has no reported catalytic activity. While there are many suggested functions of PADI6 in the early mouse embryo, including in embryonic genome activation, cytoplasmic lattice formation, maternal mRNA and ribosome regulation, and organelle distribution, the molecular mechanisms of its function remain unknown. In this review, we discuss what is known about the function of PADI6 and highlight key outstanding questions that must be answered if we are to understand the crucial role it plays in early embryo development and female fertility. This article is part of the Theo Murphy meeting issue 'The virtues and vices of protein citrullination'.

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