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

ZNF gene family

Reviewed December 2007

What are the ZNF genes?

Genes in the ZNF family provide instructions for making zinc finger proteins, which are regulatory proteins that are involved in many cellular functions. The C2H2 zinc finger proteins, also known as classical zinc fingers, are the most well-studied subset of this family. They are a very common type of protein in animals, plants, and fungi. An estimated 700 human genes provide instructions for making these proteins.

Zinc finger proteins 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). Specifically, the C2H2 zinc finger domain consists of a chain of two cysteines and two histidines, which fold around a single zinc ion. This configuration makes C2H2 zinc finger proteins very stable and enables them to attach (bind) firmly to other molecules.

C2H2 zinc finger proteins bind primarily to DNA. In most cases, they attach to regions near certain genes and turn the genes on and off as needed. Proteins that bind to DNA and regulate the activity of particular genes are known as transcription factors. Some C2H2 zinc finger proteins can also bind to other molecules, including RNA (a chemical cousin of DNA) and proteins.

Which genes are included in the ZNF 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 ZNF gene family: ZEB2.

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

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

  • Mowat-Wilson syndrome

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

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

  • RCSB Protein Data Bank: Zinc Fingers (
  • InterPro: Zinc Finger, C2H2-type (
  • C2H2 Zinc Finger Database (

What glossary definitions help with understanding the ZNF gene family?

acids ; DNA ; domain ; gene ; homeobox ; ions ; protein ; RNA ; transcription ; zinc finger domain

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 ZNF gene family.

  • Molecular Cell Biology (fourth edition, 2000): Zinc Finger Proteins (
  • Iuchi S. Three classes of C2H2 zinc finger proteins. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2001 Apr;58(4):625-35. Review. (
  • Edelstein LC, Collins T. The SCAN domain family of zinc finger transcription factors. Gene. 2005 Oct 10;359:1-17. 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: December 2007
Published: February 8, 2016