Gli-similar proteins: their mechanisms of action, physiological functions, and roles in disease

Vitam Horm. 2012;88:141-71. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-394622-5.00007-9.


Gli-similar (Glis) 1-3 proteins constitute a subfamily of Krüppel-like zinc-finger proteins that are closely related to members of the Gli family. Glis proteins have been implicated in several pathologies, including cystic kidney disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism, fibrosis, osteoporosis, psoriasis, and cancer. In humans, a mutation in the Glis2 gene has been linked to the development of nephronophthisis (NPHP), a recessive cystic kidney disease, while mutations in Glis3 lead to an extended multisystem phenotype that includes the development of neonatal diabetes, polycystic kidneys, congenital hypothyroidism, and facial dysmorphism. Glis3 has also been identified as a risk locus for type-1 and type-2 diabetes and additional studies have revealed a role for Glis3 in pancreatic endocrine development, β-cell maintenance, and insulin regulation. Similar to Gli1-3, Glis2 and 3 have been reported to localize to the primary cilium. These studies appear to suggest that Glis proteins are part of a primary cilium-associated signaling pathway(s). It has been hypothesized that Glis proteins are activated through posttranslational modifications and subsequently translocate to the nucleus where they regulate transcription by interacting with Glis-binding sites in the promoter regions of target genes. This chapter summarizes the current state of knowledge regarding mechanisms of action of the Glis family of proteins, their physiological functions, as well as their roles in disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Diabetes Mellitus / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism*
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / genetics
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases, Cystic / genetics
  • Kidney Diseases, Cystic / metabolism*
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / analysis
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcriptional Activation / physiology
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1
  • Zinc Fingers / genetics
  • Zinc Fingers / physiology*


  • GLI1 protein, human
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1