Design and selection of novel Cys2His2 zinc finger proteins

Annu Rev Biochem. 2001;70:313-40. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biochem.70.1.313.


Cys2His2 zinc finger proteins offer a stable and versatile framework for the design of proteins that recognize desired target sites on double-stranded DNA. Individual fingers from these proteins have a simple beta beta alpha structure that folds around a central zinc ion, and tandem sets of fingers can contact neighboring subsites of 3-4 base pairs along the major groove of the DNA. Although there is no simple, general code for zinc finger-DNA recognition, selection strategies have been developed that allow these proteins to be targeted to almost any desired site on double-stranded DNA. The affinity and specificity of these new proteins can also be improved by linking more fingers together or by designing proteins that bind as dimers and thus recognize an extended site. These new proteins can then be modified by adding other domains--for activation or repression of transcription, for DNA cleavage, or for other activities. Such designer transcription factors and other new proteins will have important applications in biomedical research and in gene therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Dimerization
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Engineering / methods
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Zinc Fingers*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Proteins
  • DNA