Human Rex-1 (hRex-1) (also referred to as zinc-finger protein-42, Zfp42) encodes a zinc finger protein expression of which is believed to be characteristic of pluripotent stem cells. We have applied bioinformatics to classify the relationship of human, rat, and mouse REX1 proteins in the C2H2 family of zinc finger proteins and demonstrate that REX1 is a member of the YY1 sub-family of transcription factors, which includes the Drosophila pleiohomeotic (Pho) protein. We have generated a molecular model of the human REX1 zinc finger domains based on the crystal structure of the YY1 transcription factor. To date, expression of hRex-1 and its extensively studied mouse homolog mRex-1, has been reported only in embryonic and adult stem cells and in differentiated spermatocytes. In this study, reverse transcription-PCR and Western analysis were employed to assay for hRex-1 expression in cultured normal human epithelial cells and human carcinoma cell lines. Expression of hRex-1 mRNA was detected in normal human epidermal keratinocytes, normal prostate epithelial cells (PrEC), bronchial, and small airway lung epithelial cells. Other stem cell markers, such as Oct 4, DAB2, and cMyc were also detected in normal human epidermal keratinocyte cultures. Expression of hRex-1 was also detected in some human tumor cell lines including MDA-MB-468 mammary carcinoma, SCC-15 head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, and N-TERA2 human teratocarcinoma cells. Western analyses confirmed expression of the human REX1 (ZFP42) protein in MDA-MB-468 cells and normal human keratinocytes. This research has identified model human cell culture systems, in addition to embryonic stem (ES) cells, in which Rex-1 is expressed, and this should enable the characterization of REX1 functions in normal adult epithelial cells and tumorigenic stem cells. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.