Despite nearly two decades passing since the discovery of gene fusions involving TFE3 or TFEB in sporadic renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the molecular mechanisms underlying the renal-specific tumorigenesis of these genes remain largely unclear. The recently published findings of The Cancer Genome Atlas Network reported that five of the 416 surveyed clear cell RCC tumours (1.2%) harboured SFPQ-TFE3 fusions, providing further evidence for the importance of gene fusions. A total of five TFE3 gene fusions (PRCC-TFE3, ASPSCR1-TFE3, SFPQ-TFE3, NONO-TFE3, and CLTC-TFE3) and one TFEB gene fusion (MALAT1-TFEB) have been identified in RCC tumours and characterized at the mRNA transcript level. A multitude of molecular pathways well-described in carcinogenesis are regulated in part by TFE3 or TFEB proteins, including activation of TGFβ 2 and ETS transcription factors, E-cadherin expression, CD40L-dependent lymphocyte activation, mTORC1 signalling, insulin-dependent metabolism regulation, folliculin signalling, and retinoblastoma-dependent cell cycle arrest. Determining which pathways are most important to RCC oncogenesis will be critical in discovering the most promising therapeutic targets for this disease.© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.