ZFP226 is a novel artificial transcription factor for selective activation of tumor suppressor KIBRA

Sci Rep. 2018 Mar 9;8(1):4230. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-22600-6.


KIBRA has been suggested as a key regulator of the hippo pathway, regulating organ size, cell contact inhibition as well as tissue regeneration and tumorigenesis. Recently, alterations of KIBRA expression caused by promotor methylation have been reported for several types of cancer. Our current study aimed to design an artificial transcription factor capable of re-activating expression of the tumor suppressor KIBRA and the hippo pathway. We engineered a new gene named 'ZFP226' encoding for a ~23 kDa fusion protein. ZFP226 belongs to the Cys2-His2 zinc finger type and recognizes a nine base-pair DNA sequence 5'-GGC-GGC-GGC-3' in the KIBRA core promoter P1a. ZFP226 showed nuclear localization in human immortalized kidney epithelial cells and activated the KIBRA core promoter (p < 0.001) resulting in significantly increased KIBRA mRNA and protein levels (p < 0.001). Furthermore, ZFP226 led to activation of hippo signaling marked by elevated YAP and LATS phosphorylation. In Annexin V flow cytometry assays ZFP226 overexpression showed strong pro-apoptotic capacity on MCF-7 breast cancer cells (p < 0.01 early-, p < 0.001 late-apoptotic cells). We conclude that the artificial transcription factor ZFP226 can be used for target KIBRA and hippo pathway activation. This novel molecule may represent a molecular tool for the development of future applications in cancer treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Cell Line
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Protein Engineering
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Zinc Fingers*


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • WWC1 protein, human