Zinc Metalloproteins in Epigenetics and Their Crosstalk

Life (Basel). 2021 Feb 26;11(3):186. doi: 10.3390/life11030186.


More than half a century ago, zinc was established as an essential micronutrient for normal human physiology. In silico data suggest that about 10% of the human proteome potentially binds zinc. Many proteins with zinc-binding domains (ZBDs) are involved in epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation and histone modifications, which regulate transcription in physiological and pathological conditions. Zinc metalloproteins in epigenetics are mainly zinc metalloenzymes and zinc finger proteins (ZFPs), which are classified into writers, erasers, readers, editors, and feeders. Altogether, these classes of proteins engage in crosstalk that fundamentally maintains the epigenome's modus operandi. Changes in the expression or function of these proteins induced by zinc deficiency or loss of function mutations in their ZBDs may lead to aberrant epigenetic reprogramming, which may worsen the risk of non-communicable chronic diseases. This review attempts to address zinc's role and its proteins in natural epigenetic programming and artificial reprogramming and briefly discusses how the ZBDs in these proteins interact with the chromatin.

Keywords: epigenetics; epigenome; zinc finger domain; zinc finger motif; zinc finger proteins; zinc metalloproteins.

Publication types

  • Review