Zc3h10 Acts as a Transcription Factor and Is Phosphorylated to Activate the Thermogenic Program

Cell Rep. 2019 Nov 26;29(9):2621-2633.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.10.099.


Brown adipose tissue harbors UCP1 to dissipate chemical energy as heat. However, the transcriptional network that governs the thermogenic gene program is incompletely understood. Zc3h10, a CCCH-type zinc finger protein, has recently been reported to bind RNA. However, we report here that Zc3h10 functions as a transcription factor to activate UCP1 not through the enhancer region, but by binding to a far upstream region of the UCP1 promoter. Upon sympathetic stimulation, Zc3h10 is phosphorylated at S126 by p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) to increase binding to the distal region of the UCP1 promoter. Zc3h10, as well as mutant Zc3h10, which cannot bind RNA, enhances thermogenic capacity and energy expenditure, protecting mice from diet-induced obesity. Conversely, Zc3h10 ablation in UCP1+ cells in mice impairs thermogenic capacity and lowers oxygen consumption, leading to weight gain. Hence, Zc3h10 plays a critical role in the thermogenic gene program and may present future targets for obesity therapeutics.

Keywords: RNA binding; UCP1; Zc3h10; brown adipose tissue; brown fat; phosphorylation; thermogenesis; transcription factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Phosphorylation
  • Thermogenesis / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • ZC3H10 protein, human