Cervical cancer (CC) is a leading cause of cancer-related death among women in developing countries. However, the underlying mechanisms and molecular targets for therapy remain to be fully understood. We investigated the epigenetic regulation, biological functions, and clinical utility of zinc-finger protein 471 (ZNF471) in CC. Analysis of cervical tissues and five independent public datasets of CC showed significant hypermethylation of the ZNF471 gene promoter. In CC cell lines, promoter DNA methylation was inversely correlated with ZNF471 expression. The sensitivity and specificity of the ZNF471 hypermethylation for squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL) vs tumor and normal vs tumor was above 85% with AUC of 0.937. High methylation and low ZNF471 expression predicted poor overall and recurrence-free survival. We identified −686 to +114 bp as ZNF471 promoter, regulated by methylation using transient transfection and luciferase assays. The promoter CpG site methylation of ZNF471 was significantly different among cancer types and tumor grades. Gal4-based heterologous luciferase reporter gene assays revealed that ZNF471 acts as a transcriptional repressor. The retroviral mediated overexpression of ZNF471 in SiHa and CaSki cells inhibited growth, proliferation, cell migration, invasion; delayed cell cycle progression in vitro by increasing cell doubling time; and reduced tumor growth in vivo in nude mice. ZNF471 overexpression inhibited key members of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), Wnt, and PI3K-AKT signaling pathways. ZNF471 inhibited EMT by directly targeting vimentin as analyzed by bioinformatic analysis, ChIP-PCR, and western blotting. Thus, ZNF471 CpG specific promoter methylation may determine the prognosis of CC and could function as a potential tumor suppressor by targeting EMT signaling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731 - 749
JournalCell Biology and Toxicology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 10-2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Cell Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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