USMLE: Zinc Deficiency Symptoms and Zinc Fingers as Transcription Factor Motifs

Zinc is an important trace element that aids the activity of essential enzymes in our body. One of zinc’s most notable functions is its role in the formation of zinc fingers. What is a zinc finger? A finger with zinc on it, duh!

Nah, just kidding!

what is a zinc finger? what does a zinc finger do? and how does the zinc finger work?

3d Image of Zinc Finger DNA Complex

A zing finger is a transcription factor motif, also known as a protein that helps the main transcription factor in regulating gene expression. Specifically, the zinc in the zinc finger helps stabilize and coordinate the transcription factor protein onto the desired DNA or RNA sequence. Together, the zinc transcription factor motif and the transcription factor activates or inhibits the gene expression according to its position on the DNA or RNA. In lay terms, zinc fingers are like sidekicks that help the main superhero protein ‘transcription factor’ to locate the specific gene and help turn cellular expression on or off.

Zinc Fingers are Transcription Factor Motifs that Help regulate gene expression.

Zinc Deficiency and Symptoms

Zinc deficiency from a poor diet and nutrition can cause several symptoms to occur. Zinc is essential for the enzyme collagenase to function. Collagenase is responsible for wound healing, so when a patient is zinc deficient, the collagenase enzyme does not work properly and thus there is delayed wound healing and suppressed immunity.

Zinc Deficinecy leads to –> Malfunctioning Collagenase enzyme –> Symptoms: Delayed Wound Healing & Suppressed Immunity

Other symptoms of zinc deficiency include male hypogonadism ↓ adult hair (axillary, facial, pubic), distorted senses in taste (dysguesia), and partial or total loss of smell (anosmia).

Delayed wound healing for zinc deficient patients

Zinc Deficiency Symptoms include the following:

  • ↓ adult hair (axillary, facial, pubic)
  • Distortion in taste (dysguesia)
  • Partial or total loss of smell (anosmia)
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Dermatitis
  • Higher risk for alcoholic cirrhosis, where the liver becomes stiff, swollen, and loses its ability to function

Acrodermatitis enteropathica in Zinc Deficiency

When the intestines also have trouble absorbing zinc, patients who are zinc deficient also present symptoms of acrodermatitis enteropathica. What is acrodermatitis enteropathica? It’s scaly patched skin usually on the facial cheeks, mouth region, and genital area. To remember this, a mnemonic for zinc deficiency and acrodermatitis is Cheek. Zinc and Cheek closely rhyme. Symptoms presented are dermatitis on both facial and butt cheeks.

Works Cited

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