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All transcription factors are equal, but some are more equal than others. In the 25 yr since the gene encoding the microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) was first isolated, MITF has emerged as a key coordinator of many aspects of melanocyte and melanoma biology. Like all transcription factors, MITF binds to specific DNA sequences and up-regulates or down-regulates its target genes. What marks MITF as being remarkable among its peers is the sheer range of biological processes that it appears to coordinate. These include cell survival, differentiation, proliferation, invasion, senescence, metabolism, and DNA damage repair. In this article we present our current understanding of MITF's role and regulation in development and disease, as well as those of the MITF-related factors TFEB and TFE3, and highlight key areas where our knowledge of MITF regulation and function is limited.

Original publication




Journal article


Genes & development

Publication Date





983 - 1007


Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, Headington, Oxford OX3 7DQ, United Kingdom.


Melanocytes, Animals, Humans, Melanoma, Protein Isoforms, Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic, Protein Binding, Genome, Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor, Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors