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The microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) is required for melanocyte development, maintenance of the melanocyte-specific transcription, and survival of melanoma cells. MITF positively regulates expression of more than 25 genes in pigment cells. Recently, it has been demonstrated that expression of several MITF downstream targets requires the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex, which contains one of the two catalytic subunits, Brm or Brg1. Here we show that the expression of MITF itself critically requires active SWI/SNF. In several Brm/Brg1-expressing melanoma cell lines, knockdown of Brg1 severely compromised MITF expression with a concomitant downregulation of MITF targets and decreased cell proliferation. Although Brm was able to substitute for Brg1 in maintaining MITF expression and melanoma cell proliferation, sequential knockdown of both Brm and Brg1 in 501mel cells abolished proliferation. In Brg1-null SK-MEL-5 melanoma cells, depletion of Brm alone was sufficient to abrogate MITF expression and cell proliferation. Chromatin immunoprecipitation confirmed the binding of Brg1 or Brm to the promoter of MITF. Together these results demonstrate the essential role of SWI/SNF for expression of MITF and suggest that SWI/SNF may be a promissing target in melanoma therapy.


Jiri Vachtenheim, Lubica Ondrusová, Jan Borovanský. SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex is critical for the expression of microphthalmia-associated transcription factor in melanoma cells. Biochemical and biophysical research communications. 2010 Feb 12;392(3):454-9

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PMID: 20083088

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