Zinc-finger proteins are regulators of critical signaling pathways for various cellular functions, including apoptosis and oncogenesis. Here, we investigate how binding site protonation states and zinc coordination influence protein structure, dynamics, and ultimately function, as these pivotal regulatory proteins are increasingly important for protein engineering and therapeutic discovery. To better understand the thermodynamics and dynamics of the zinc finger of NEMO (NF-κB essential modulator), as well as the role of zinc, we present results of 20 μs molecular dynamics trajectories, 5 μs for each of four active site configurations. Consistent with experimental evidence, the zinc ion is essential for mechanical stabilization of the functional, folded conformation. Hydrogen bond motifs are unique for deprotonated configurations yet overlap in protonated cases. Correlated motions and principal component analysis corroborate the similarity of the protonated configurations and highlight unique relationships of the zinc-bound configuration. We hypothesize a potential mechanism for zinc binding from results of the thiol configurations. The deprotonated, zinc-bound configuration alone predominantly maintains its tertiary structure throughout all 5 μs and alludes rare conformations potentially important for (im)proper zinc-finger-related protein-protein or protein-DNA interactions.