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ZIC1 has been reported to be overexpressed and plays an oncogenic role in some brain tumors, whereas it is inactivated by promoter hypermethylation and acts as a tumor suppressor in gastric and colorectal cancers. However, until now, its biological role in thyroid cancer remains totally unknown.The aim of this study is to explore the biological functions and related molecular mechanism of ZIC1 in thyroid carcinogenesis.Quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) was performed to evaluate mRNA expression of investigated genes. Methylation-specific PCR was used to analyze promoter methylation of the ZIC1 gene. The functions of ectopic ZIC1 expression in thyroid cancer cells were determined by cell proliferation and colony formation, cell cycle and apoptosis, as well as cell migration and invasion assays.ZIC1 was frequently down-regulated by promoter hypermethylation in both primary thyroid cancer tissues and thyroid cancer cell lines. Moreover, our data showed that ZIC1 hypermethylation was significantly associated with lymph node metastasis in patients with papillary thyroid cancer. Notably, restoration of ZIC1 expression in thyroid cancer cells dramatically inhibited cell proliferation, colony formation, migration and invasion, and induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis by blocking the activities of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt and RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK (MAPK) pathways, and enhancing FOXO3a transcriptional activity.Our data demonstrate that ZIC1 is frequently inactivated by promoter hypermethyaltion and functions as a tumor suppressor in thyroid cancer through modulating PI3K/Akt and MAPK signaling pathways and transcription factor FOXO3a.