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Volume 33, No 1, Jan 2023

ISSN: 1001-0602 
EISSN: 1748-7838 2018 
impact factor 17.848* 
(Clarivate Analytics, 2019)

Volume 33 Issue 1, January 2023: 55-70


A unique hyperdynamic dimer interface permits small molecule perturbation of the melanoma oncoprotein MITF for melanoma therapy

Correspondence: 0

Microphthalmia transcription factor (MITF) regulates melanocyte development and is the “lineage-specific survival” oncogene of melanoma. MITF is essential for melanoma initiation, progression, and relapse and has been considered an important therapeutic target; however, direct inhibition of MITF through small molecules is considered impossible, due to the absence of a ligand-binding pocket for drug design. Here, our structural analyses show that the structure of MITF is hyperdynamic because of its out-of-register leucine zipper with a 3-residue insertion. The dynamic MITF is highly vulnerable to dimer-disrupting mutations, as we observed that MITF loss-of-function mutations in human Waardenburg syndrome type 2 A are frequently located on the dimer interface and disrupt the dimer forming ability accordingly. These observations suggest a unique opportunity to inhibit MITF with small molecules capable of disrupting the MITF dimer. From a high throughput screening against 654,650 compounds, we discovered compound TT-012, which specifically binds to dynamic MITF and destroys the latter’s dimer formation and DNA-binding ability. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation assay and RNA sequencing, we showed that TT-012 inhibits the transcriptional activity of MITF in B16F10 melanoma cells. In addition, TT-012 inhibits the growth of high-MITF melanoma cells, and inhibits the tumor growth and metastasis with tolerable toxicity to liver and immune cells in animal models. Together, this study demonstrates a unique hyperdynamic dimer interface in melanoma oncoprotein MITF, and reveals a novel approach to therapeutically suppress MITF activity.


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