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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2013 Oct;70(20):3791-811. doi: 10.1007/s00018-013-1285-5. Epub 2013 Feb 27.

The ZIC gene family encodes multi-functional proteins essential for patterning and morphogenesis.

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Department of Oncology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, O&N1, 3000, Leuven, Belgium,


The zinc finger of the cerebellum gene (ZIC) discovered in Drosophila melanogaster (odd-paired) has five homologs in Xenopus, chicken, mice, and humans, and seven in zebrafish. This pattern of gene copy expansion is accompanied by a divergence in gene and protein structure, suggesting that Zic family members share some, but not all, functions. ZIC genes are implicated in neuroectodermal development and neural crest cell induction. All share conserved regions encoding zinc finger domains, however their heterogeneity and specification remain unexplained. In this review, the evolution, structure, and expression patterns of the ZIC homologs are described; specific functions attributable to individual family members are supported. A review of data from functional studies in Xenopus and murine models suggest that ZIC genes encode multifunctional proteins operating in a context-specific manner to drive critical events during embryogenesis. The identification of ZIC mutations in congenital syndromes highlights the relevance of these genes in human development.

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