Keep your fingers off my DNA: Protein-protein interactions mediated by C2H2 zinc finger domains

Kathryn J. Brayer, David Segal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

197 Scopus citations


Cys2-His2 (C2H2) zinc finger domains (ZFs) were originally identified as DNA-binding domains, and uncharacterized domains are typically assumed to function in DNA binding. However, a growing body of evidence suggests an important and widespread role for these domains in protein binding. There are even examples of zinc fingers that support both DNA and protein interactions, which can be found in well-known DNA-binding proteins such as Sp1, Zif268, and Ying Yang 1 (YY1). C2H2 protein-protein interactions (PPIs) are proving to be more abundant than previously appreciated, more plastic than their DNA-binding counterparts, and more variable and complex in their interactions surfaces. Here we review the current knowledge of over 100 C2H2 zinc finger-mediated PPIs, focusing on what is known about the binding surface, contributions of individual fingers to the interaction, and function. An accurate understanding of zinc finger biology will likely require greater insights into the potential protein interaction capabilities of C2H2 ZFs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-131
Number of pages21
JournalCell Biochemistry and Biophysics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Functional annotations
  • Protein chemistry
  • Protein-DNA interactions
  • Structural biology
  • Transcription factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biophysics


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