MITF activity is regulated by a direct interaction with RAF proteins in melanoma cells
AbstractThe MITF transcription factor and the RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK pathway are two interconnected main players in melanoma. Understanding how MITF activity is regulated represents a key question since its dynamic modulation is involved in the phenotypic plasticity of melanoma cells and their resistance to therapy. By investigating the role of ARAF in NRAS-driven mouse melanoma through mass spectrometry experiments followed by a functional siRNA-based screen, we unexpectedly identified MITF as a direct ARAF partner. Interestingly, this interaction is conserved among the RAF protein kinase family since BRAF/MITF and CRAF/MITF complexes were also observed in the cytosol of NRAS-mutated mouse melanoma cells. The interaction occurs through the kinase domain of RAF proteins. Importantly, endogenous BRAF/MITF complexes were also detected in BRAF-mutated human melanoma cells. RAF/MITF complexes modulate MITF nuclear localization by inducing an accumulation of MITF in the cytoplasm, thus negatively controlling its transcriptional activity. Taken together, our study highlights a new level of regulation between two major mediators of melanoma progression, MITF and the MAPK/ERK pathway, which appears more complex than previously anticipated.