The majority of cloned animals derived by nuclear transfer from somatic cell nuclei develop to the blastocyst stage but die after implantation. Mouse embryos that lack an Oct4 gene, which plays an essential role in control of developmental pluripotency, develop to the blastocyst stage and also die after implantation, because they lack pluripotent embryonic cells. Based on this similarity, we posited that cloned embryos derived from differentiated cell nuclei fail to establish a population of truly pluripotent embryonic cells because of faulty reactivation of key embryonic genes such as Oct4. To explore this hypothesis, we used an in silico approach to identify a set of Oct4-related genes whose developmental expression pattern is similar to that of Oct4. When expression of Oct4 and 10 Oct4-related genes was analyzed in individual cumulus cell-derived cloned blastocysts, only 62% correctly expressed all tested genes. In contrast to this incomplete reactivation of Oct4-related genes in somatic clones, ES cell-derived cloned blastocysts and normal control embryos expressed these genes normally. Notably, the contrast between expression patterns of the Oct4-related genes correlated with efficiency of embryonic development of somatic and ES cell-derived cloned blastocysts to term. These observations suggest that failure to reactivate the full spectrum of these Oct4-related genes may contribute to embryonic lethality in somatic-cell clones.