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

RNF gene family

Reviewed April 2011

What are the RNF genes?

Genes in the RNF family provide instructions for making proteins known as RING-type zinc finger proteins. Several hundred of these proteins have been identified. This family is a subset of a much larger group of zinc finger proteins, which are involved in many cellular functions.

Zinc finger proteins each contain one or more short regions called zinc finger domains. These regions include a specific pattern of protein building blocks (amino acids) and one or more charged atoms of zinc (zinc ions). The RING finger domain contains a particular sequence of the amino acids cysteine and histidine, which fold around two zinc ions. This configuration makes RING-type zinc finger proteins very stable and enables them to attach (bind) firmly to other molecules.

RING-type zinc finger proteins have an enzyme activity known as E3 ubiquitin-protein ligase. This means that they target other proteins to be broken down (degraded) within cells. Protein degradation is a normal process that removes damaged or unnecessary proteins and helps maintain the normal functions of cells.

Studies suggest that RING-type zinc finger proteins help regulate many different cellular functions, including cell growth and division, the transmission of chemical signals (signal transduction), and the self-destruction of cells (apoptosis). Several RING-type zinc finger proteins act as tumor suppressors, which means that they keep cells from growing and dividing in an uncontrolled way. Among these tumor suppressors is BRCA1, which is involved in repairing damaged DNA to prevent the formation of tumors. A loss of BRCA1 function is associated with an increased risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer.

Which genes are included in the RNF 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 these members of the RNF gene family: BRCA1, CNBP, MID1, PML, RAPSN, and RNF213.

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

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

  • acute promyelocytic leukemia
  • breast cancer
  • congenital myasthenic syndrome
  • moyamoya disease
  • multiple pterygium syndrome
  • myotonic dystrophy
  • Opitz G/BBB syndrome
  • ovarian cancer
  • prostate cancer

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

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

  • RCSC Protein Data Bank: Zinc Fingers (
  • InterPro: Zinc Finger, RING-type (
  • Molecular Cell Biology (fourth edition, 2000): Zinc Finger Proteins ( (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

What glossary definitions help with understanding the RNF gene family?

acids ; apoptosis ; cancer ; cell ; cysteine ; degradation ; DNA ; domain ; enzyme ; histidine ; ions ; leukemia ; ligase ; nucleic acid ; protein ; receptor ; signal transduction ; synapse ; transduction ; tumor ; ubiquitin

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 RNF gene family.

  • Fang S, Lorick KL, Jensen JP, Weissman AM. RING finger ubiquitin protein ligases: implications for tumorigenesis, metastasis and for molecular targets in cancer. Semin Cancer Biol. 2003 Feb;13(1):5-14. Review. (
  • Joazeiro CA, Weissman AM. RING finger proteins: mediators of ubiquitin ligase activity. Cell. 2000 Sep 1;102(5):549-52. Review. (
  • Borden KL, Freemont PS. The RING finger domain: a recent example of a sequence-structure family. Curr Opin Struct Biol. 1996 Jun;6(3):395-401. Review. (
  • Freemont PS. The RING finger. A novel protein sequence motif related to the zinc finger. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1993 Jun 11;684:174-92. 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: April 2011
Published: February 8, 2016