Zinc finger protein 280C contributes to colorectal tumorigenesis by maintaining epigenetic repression at H3K27me3-marked loci

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 May 31;119(22):e2120633119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2120633119. Epub 2022 May 23.


Dysregulated epigenetic and transcriptional programming due to abnormalities of transcription factors (TFs) contributes to and sustains the oncogenicity of cancer cells. Here, we unveiled the role of zinc finger protein 280C (ZNF280C), a known DNA damage response protein, as a tumorigenic TF in colorectal cancer (CRC), required for colitis-associated carcinogenesis and Apc deficiency–driven intestinal tumorigenesis in mice. Consistently, ZNF280C silencing in human CRC cells inhibited proliferation, clonogenicity, migration, xenograft growth, and liver metastasis. As a C2H2 (Cys2-His2) zinc finger-containing TF, ZNF280C occupied genomic intervals with both transcriptionally active and repressive states and coincided with CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) and cohesin binding. Notably, ZNF280C was crucial for the repression program of trimethylation of histone H3 at lysine 27 (H3K27me3)-marked genes and the maintenance of both focal and broad H3K27me3 levels. Mechanistically, ZNF280C counteracted CTCF/cohesin activities and condensed the chromatin environment at the cis elements of certain tumor suppressor genes marked by H3K27me3, at least partially through recruiting the epigenetic repressor structural maintenance of chromosomes flexible hinge domain-containing 1 (SMCHD1). In clinical relevance, ZNF280C was highly expressed in primary CRCs and distant metastases, and a higher ZNF280C level independently predicted worse prognosis of CRC patients. Thus, our study uncovered a contributor with good prognostic value to CRC pathogenesis and also elucidated the essence of DNA-binding TFs in orchestrating the epigenetic programming of gene regulation.

Keywords: CTCF; ZNF280C; colorectal cancer; epigenetic repression; transcription factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CCCTC-Binding Factor / metabolism
  • Carcinogenesis / genetics
  • Chromatin* / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Epigenetic Repression*
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Transcription Factors
  • Zinc Fingers


  • CCCTC-Binding Factor
  • Chromatin
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Histones
  • Transcription Factors
  • ZNF280C protein, human
  • histone H3 trimethyl Lys4