As a survival factor for melanocytes lineage cells, MiTF plays multiple roles in development and melanomagenesis. What role MiTF plays in the DNA damage response is currently unknown. In this report we observed that MiTF was phosphorylated at serine 73 after UVC radiation, which was followed by proteasome-mediated degradation. Unlike after c-Kit stimulation, inhibiting p90RSK-1 did not abolish the band shift of MiTF protein, nor did it abolish the UVC-mediated MiTF degradation, suggesting that phosphorylation on serine 73 by Erk1/2 is a key event after UVC. Furthermore, the MiTF-S73A mutant (Serine 73 changed to Alanine via site-directed mutagenesis) was unable to degrade and was continuously expressed after UVC exposure. Compared to A375 melanoma cells expressing wild-type MiTF (MiTF-WT), cells expressing MiTF-S73A mutant showed less p21WAF1/CIP1accumulation and a delayed p21WAF1/CIP1recovery after UVC. Consequently, cells expressing MiTF-WT showed a temporary G1 arrest after UVC, but cells expressing MiTF-S73A mutant or lack of MiTF expression did not. Finally, cell lines with high levels of MiTF expression showed higher resistance to UVC-induced cell death than those with low-level MiTF. These data suggest that MiTF mediates a survival signal linking Erk1/2 activation and p21WAF1/CIP1regulation via phosphorylation on serine 73, which facilitates cell cycle arrest. In addition, our data also showed that exposure to different wavelengths of UV light elicited different signal pathways involving MiTF. © 2010 Liu et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.