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It is widely assumed that decreasing transcription factor DNA-binding affinity reduces transcription initiation by diminishing occupancy of sequence-specific regulatory elements. However, in vivo transcription factors find their binding sites while confronted with a large excess of low-affinity degenerate motifs. Here, using the melanoma lineage survival oncogene MITF as a model, we show that low-affinity binding sites act as a competitive reservoir in vivo from which transcription factors are released by mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-stimulated acetylation to promote increased occupancy of their regulatory elements. Consequently, a low-DNA-binding-affinity acetylation-mimetic MITF mutation supports melanocyte development and drives tumorigenesis, whereas a high-affinity non-acetylatable mutant does not. The results reveal a paradoxical acetylation-mediated molecular clutch that tunes transcription factor availability via genome-wide redistribution and couples BRAF to tumorigenesis. Our results further suggest that p300/CREB-binding protein-mediated transcription factor acetylation may represent a common mechanism to control transcription factor availability.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.molcel.2020.05.025

Type

Journal article

Journal

Molecular cell

Publication Date

04/06/2020

Addresses

Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, Headington, Oxford OX3 7DQ, UK; Department of Gastrointestinal and Hepato-Biliary-Pancreatic Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba, 1-1-1 Tennodai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8575, Japan.