The microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) is required for terminal osteoclast differentiation and is a target for signaling pathways engaged by colony stimulating factor (CSF)-1 and receptor-activator of nuclear factor-kappaB ligand (RANKL). Work presented here demonstrates that MITF can shuttle from cytoplasm to nucleus dependent upon RANKL/CSF-1 action. 14-3-3 was identified as a binding partner of MITF in osteoclast precursors, and overexpression of 14-3-3 in a transgenic model resulted in increased cytosolic localization of MITF and decreased expression of MITF target genes. MITF/14-3-3 interaction was phosphorylation dependent, and Ser173 residue, within the minimal interaction region of amino acid residues 141-191, was required. The Cdc25C-associated kinase (C-TAK)1 interacted with an overlapping region of MITF. C-TAK1 increased MITF/14-3-3 complex formation and thus promoted cytoplasmic localization of MITF. C-TAK1 interaction was disrupted by RANKL/CSF-1 treatment. The results indicate that 14-3-3 regulates MITF activity by promoting the cytosolic localization of MITF in the absence of signals required for osteoclast differentiation. This work identifies a mechanism that regulates MITF activity in monocytic precursors that are capable of undergoing different terminal differentiation programs, and it provides a mechanism that allows committed precursors to rapidly respond to signals in the bone microenvironment to promote specifically osteoclast differentiation.