Evolving complexity of MIF signaling

Cell Signal. 2019 May;57:76-88. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2019.01.006. Epub 2019 Jan 23.


Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is a cytokine expressed in various cell types, including hematopoietic, epithelial, endothelial, mesenchymal and neuronal cells. Altered MIF expression has been associated with a multitude of diseases ranging from inflammatory disorders like sepsis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis to organ pathologies such as heart failure, myocardial infarction, acute kidney injury, organ fibrosis and a number of malignancies. The implication of MIF in these diseases was supported by numerous animal studies. MIF acts in an autocrine and paracrine manner via binding and activating the receptors CD74/CD44, CXCR2, CXCR4 and CXCR7. Upon receptor binding, several downstream signaling pathways were shown to be activated in vivo, including ERK1/2, AMPK and AKT. Expression of MIF receptors is not uniform in various cells, resulting in differential responses to MIF across various tissues and pathologies. Within cells, MIF can directly bind and interact with intracellular proteins, such as the constitutive photomorphogenic-9 (COP9) signalosome subunit 5 (CSN5), p53 or thioredoxin-interacting protein (TXNIP). D-dopachrome tautomerase (D-DT or MIF-2) was recognized to be a structural and functional homolog of MIF, which could exert overlapping effects, raising further the complexity of canonical MIF signaling pathways. Here, we provide an overview of the expression and regulation of MIF, D-DT and their receptors. We also discuss the downstream signaling pathways regulated by MIF/D-DT and their pathological roles in different tissue, particularly in the heart and the kidney.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Differentiation, B-Lymphocyte / metabolism
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intramolecular Oxidoreductases / metabolism*
  • Macrophage Migration-Inhibitory Factors / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Antigens, Differentiation, B-Lymphocyte
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Macrophage Migration-Inhibitory Factors
  • invariant chain
  • Intramolecular Oxidoreductases
  • MIF protein, human
  • dopachrome isomerase