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Genetics Home Reference: your guide to understanding genetic conditions     A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine®

BZIP gene family

Reviewed January 2014

What are the bZIP genes?

The bZIP gene family contains genes that provide instructions for making transcription factors known as basic leucine zipper (bZIP) proteins. Transcription factors attach (bind) to specific areas of DNA and help control whether particular genes are turned on or off.

bZIP proteins have a specific structure that allows them to control gene activity. Each bZIP protein has a leucine zipper region, so named because it contains the protein building block (amino acid) leucine at very specific locations. In some bZIP proteins, another amino acid that functions similarly to leucine is found in those locations. The leucines (or related amino acids) of two bZIP proteins interact with one another, bringing the proteins together into a structure called a dimer. Two copies of the same bZIP protein may bind to each other, or two different bZIP proteins may interact. The paired bZIP proteins form two extended arms that grasp the DNA molecule, much like a pair of chopsticks. They interact with DNA through another region known as the basic region (or DNA-binding domain). When the proteins bind to DNA, they control the activity of particular genes.

bZIP proteins play a role in many cellular and developmental processes, including development of the skeleton and brain, immune cell development, and maturation of white blood cells. Mutations in the bZIP gene CEBPA result in the production of abnormal immature white blood cells and lead to a cancer of blood-forming cells called acute myeloid leukemia.

Which genes are included in the bZIP gene family?

The HUGO Gene Nomenclature Committee (HGNC) provides an index of gene families ( and their member genes.

Genetics Home Reference summarizes the normal function and health implications of this member of the bZIP gene family: CEBPA.

What conditions are related to genes in the bZIP gene family?

Genetics Home Reference includes these conditions related to genes in the bZIP gene family:

  • cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukemia
  • familial acute myeloid leukemia with mutated CEBPA

Where can I find additional information about the bZIP gene family?

You may find the following resources about the bZIP gene family helpful.

  • Genomes (second edition, 2002): Figure 9.16: A Leucine Zipper (

What glossary definitions help with understanding the bZIP gene family?

acids ; acute ; acute myeloid leukemia ; amino acid ; cancer ; cell ; dimer ; DNA ; domain ; enhancer ; gene ; leucine ; leukemia ; molecule ; myeloid ; protein ; transcription ; white blood cells

You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.


These sources were used to develop the Genetics Home Reference summary for the bZIP gene family.

  • Molecular Cell Biology (fourth edition, 2000): DNA-Binding Domains Can Be Classified into Numerous Structural Types (
  • Miller M. The importance of being flexible: the case of basic region leucine zipper transcriptional regulators. Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2009 Jun;10(3):244-69. Review. (
  • Alber T. Structure of the leucine zipper. Curr Opin Genet Dev. 1992 Apr;2(2):205-10. Review. (
  • Tsukada J, Yoshida Y, Kominato Y, Auron PE. The CCAAT/enhancer (C/EBP) family of basic-leucine zipper (bZIP) transcription factors is a multifaceted highly-regulated system for gene regulation. Cytokine. 2011 Apr;54(1):6-19. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2010.12.019. Epub 2011 Jan 22. Review. (


The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? ( in the Handbook.

Reviewed: January 2014
Published: February 8, 2016