The underestimated role of the microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MiTF) in normal and pathological haematopoiesis

Cell Biosci. 2021 Jan 13;11(1):18. doi: 10.1186/s13578-021-00529-0.


Haematopoiesis, the process by which a restrained population of stem cells terminally differentiates into specific types of blood cells, depends on the tightly regulated temporospatial activity of several transcription factors (TFs). The deregulation of their activity or expression is a main cause of pathological haematopoiesis, leading to bone marrow failure (BMF), anaemia and leukaemia. TFs can be induced and/or activated by different stimuli, to which they respond by regulating the expression of genes and gene networks. Most TFs are highly pleiotropic; i.e., they are capable of influencing two or more apparently unrelated phenotypic traits, and the action of a single TF in a specific setting often depends on its interaction with other TFs and signalling pathway components. The microphthalmia-associated TF (MiTF) is a prototype TF in multiple situations. MiTF has been described extensively as a key regulator of melanocyte and melanoma development because it acts mainly as an oncogene. Mitf-mutated mice show a plethora of pleiotropic phenotypes, such as microphthalmia, deafness, abnormal pigmentation, retinal degeneration, reduced mast cell numbers and osteopetrosis, revealing a greater requirement for MiTF activity in cells and tissue. A growing amount of evidence has led to the delineation of key roles for MiTF in haematopoiesis and/or in cells of haematopoietic origin, including haematopoietic stem cells, mast cells, NK cells, basophiles, B cells and osteoclasts. This review summarizes several roles of MiTF in cells of the haematopoietic system and how MiTFs can impact BM development.

Publication types

  • Review