MITF in melanoma: mechanisms behind its expression and activity

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2015 Apr;72(7):1249-60. doi: 10.1007/s00018-014-1791-0. Epub 2014 Nov 30.


MITF (microphthalmia-associated transcription factor) represents a melanocytic lineage-specific transcription factor whose role is profoundly extended in malignant melanoma. Over the last few years, the function of MITF has been tightly connected to plasticity of melanoma cells. MITF participates in executing diverse melanoma phenotypes defined by distinct gene expression profiles. Mutation-dependent alterations in MITF expression and activity have been found in a relatively small subset of melanomas. MITF activity is rather modulated by its upstream activators and suppressors operating on transcriptional, post-transcriptional and post-translational levels. These regulatory mechanisms also include epigenetic and microenvironmental signals. Several transcription factors and signaling pathways involved in the regulation of MITF expression and/or activity such as the Wnt/β-catenin pathway are broadly utilized by various types of tumors, whereas others, e.g., BRAF(V600E)/ERK1/2 are more specific for melanoma. Furthermore, the MITF activity can be affected by the availability of transcriptional co-partners that are often redirected by MITF from their own canonical signaling pathways. In this review, we discuss the complexity of a multilevel regulation of MITF expression and activity that underlies distinct context-related phenotypes of melanoma and might explain diverse responses of melanoma patients to currently used therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / genetics*
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor / genetics*
  • Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Models, Genetic
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Tumor Microenvironment / genetics


  • Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor