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Sci Rep


The MITF transcription factor is a master regulator of melanocyte development and a critical factor in melanomagenesis. The related transcription factors TFEB and TFE3 regulate lysosomal activity and autophagy processes known to be important in melanoma. Here we show that MITF binds the CLEAR-box element in the promoters of lysosomal and autophagosomal genes in melanocytes and melanoma cells. The crystal structure of MITF bound to the CLEAR-box reveals how the palindromic nature of this motif induces symmetric MITF homodimer binding. In metastatic melanoma tumors and cell lines, MITF positively correlates with the expression of lysosomal and autophagosomal genes, which, interestingly, are different from the lysosomal and autophagosomal genes correlated with TFEB and TFE3. Depletion of MITF in melanoma cells and melanocytes attenuates the response to starvation-induced autophagy, whereas the overexpression of MITF in melanoma cells increases the number of autophagosomes but is not sufficient to induce autophagic flux. Our results suggest that MITF and the related factors TFEB and TFE3 have separate roles in regulating a starvation-induced autophagy response in melanoma. Understanding the normal and pathophysiological roles of MITF and related transcription factors may provide important clinical insights into melanoma therapy.

Clinical Institute



Institute for Systems Biology