Alternative cleavage and polyadenylation generates multiple transcript variants producing mRNA isoforms with different length 3'-UTRs. Alternative cleavage and polyadenylation enables differential post-transcriptional regulation via the availability of different cis-acting elements in 3'-UTRs. Microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) is a master regulator of melanocyte development and melanogenesis. This central transcription factor is also implicated in melanoma development. Here, we show that melanoma cells favor the expression of MITF mRNA with a shorter 3'-UTR. We also establish that this isoform is regulated by a micro RNA (miRNA/miR), miR-340. miR-340 interacts with two of its target sites on the MITF 3'-UTR, causing mRNA degradation as well as decreased expression and activity of MITF. Conversely, the RNA-binding protein, coding region determinant-binding protein, was shown to be highly expressed in melanoma, directly binds to the 3'-UTR of MITF mRNA, and prevents the binding of miR-340 to its target sites, resulting in the stabilization of MITF transcripts, elevated expression, and transcriptional activity of MITF. This regulatory interplay between RNA-binding protein and miRNA highlights an important mechanism for the regulation of MITF in melanocytes and malignant melanomas.
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