Present address: UMMS/E.K. Shriver Center, 200 Trapelo Road, Waltham, MA 02254, USA.
Too much of a good thing: retinoic acid as an endogenous regulator of neural differentiation and exogenous teratogen
Article first published online: 11 AUG 2003
European Journal of Neuroscience
Volume 18, Issue 3, pages 457–472, August 2003
How to Cite
McCaffery, P. J., Adams, J., Maden, M. and Rosa-Molinar, E. (2003), Too much of a good thing: retinoic acid as an endogenous regulator of neural differentiation and exogenous teratogen. European Journal of Neuroscience, 18: 457–472. doi: 10.1046/j.1460-9568.2003.02765.x
- Issue published online: 11 AUG 2003
- Article first published online: 11 AUG 2003
- Received 13 February 2003, revised 30 April 2003, accepted 2 May 2003
- Gambusia affinis affinis;
Retinoic acid (RA) is essential for both embryonic and adult growth, activating gene transcription via specific nuclear receptors. It is generated, via a retinaldehyde intermediate, from retinol (vitamin A). RA levels require precise regulation by controlled synthesis and catabolism, and when RA concentrations deviate from normal, in either direction, abnormal growth and development occurs. This review describes: (i) how the pattern of RA metabolic enzymes controls the actions of RA; and (ii) the type of abnormalities that result when this pattern breaks down. Examples are given of RA control of the anterior/posterior axis of the hindbrain, the dorsal/ventral axis of the spinal cord, as well as certain sex-specific segments of the spinal cord, using varied animal models including mouse, quail and mosquitofish. These functions are highly sensitive to abnormal changes in RA concentration. In rodents, the control of neural patterning and differentiation are disrupted when RA concentrations are lowered, whereas inappropriately high concentrations of RA result in abnormal development of cerebellum and hindbrain nuclei. The latter parallels the malformations seen in the human embryo exposed to RA due to treatment of the mother with the acne drug Accutane (13-cis RA) and, in cases where the child survives beyond birth, a particular set of behavioural anomalies can be described. Even the adult brain may be susceptible to an imbalance of RA, particularly the hippocampus. This report shows how the properties of RA as a neural induction agent and organizer of segmentation can explain the consequences of RA depletion and overexpression.