MEF2 transcription factors: developmental regulators and emerging cancer genes

Julia R. Pon and Marco A. Marra _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:2297-2312. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.6223

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Julia R. Pon1 and Marco A. Marra1,2

1 Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer Agency, Vancouver, Canada

2 Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Correspondence to:

Marco A. Marra, email:

Keywords: MEF2, transcription factor, cancer, gene regulation, developmental biology

Received: August 21, 2015 Accepted: October 14, 2015 Published: October 25, 2015


The MEF2 transcription factors have roles in muscle, cardiac, skeletal, vascular, neural, blood and immune system cell development through their effects on cell differentiation, proliferation, apoptosis, migration, shape and metabolism. Altered MEF2 activity plays a role in human diseases and has recently been implicated in the development of several cancer types. In particular, MEF2B, the most divergent and least studied protein of the MEF2 family, has a role unique from its paralogs in non-Hodgkin lymphomas. The use of genome-scale technologies has enabled comprehensive MEF2 target gene sets to be identified, contributing to our understanding of MEF2 proteins as nodes in complex regulatory networks. This review surveys the molecular interactions of MEF2 proteins and their effects on cellular and organismal phenotypes. We include a discussion of the emerging roles of MEF2 proteins as oncogenes and tumor suppressors of cancer. Throughout this article we highlight similarities and differences between the MEF2 family proteins, including a focus on functions of MEF2B.

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