SUMMARY:Mutations in microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) lead to Waardenburg syndrome type 2 (WS2), a dominantly inherited disorder involving hearing loss and pigment disturbances caused by a lack of melanocytes. On rare occasions, mutations in MITF lead to Tietz syndrome (TS), which is characterized by a severe WS2 phenotype. The MITF gene is the human homolog of the mouse microphthalmia (mi) gene in some families. Mi/mi mice show decreased numbers and an abnormal phenotype of mast cells (MC). In contrast, the number and phenotype of MC in WS2/TS patients who also have an alteration in their MITF gene are unclear. In this study, we identified a mutation in the MITF gene, delR217, which was equivalent to that found in mi/mi mice, in a case of TS. None of the MITF isoforms with the mutation were able to transactivate the tyrosinase gene promoter. In addition, mutant MITF-M showed dominant negative activity toward wild-type MITF-M, inhibiting its transactivation of the tyrosinase gene promoter. The patient's peripheral blood CD34 cells showed no differences with respect to total cell number or their expression levels of tryptase mRNA in a serum-deprived liquid culture system for 6 weeks when compared with normal control cells. These findings suggest that MITF does not play a critical role in MC development in humans.