The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 56: 273 - 278 (2012)

Vol 56, Issue 4

Retinoic acid stability in stem cell cultures

Technical Article | Published: 28 March 2012

Kyle A. Sharow, Boris Temkin and Mary Ann Asson-Batres*

Department of Biological Sciences, Tennessee State University, Nashville, TN, USA


It has been reported that retinoids, such as retinoic acid (RA) and retinol (ROL), dissolved in aqueous solutions are susceptible to oxidative damage when exposed to light, air, and relatively high temperatures, conditions that are normal for culturing stem cells. Thus, questions arise regarding the interpretation of results obtained from studies of mouse embryonic stem cells exposed to retinoids because their isomerization state, their stability in culture conditions, and their interactions with other potential differentiation factors in growth media could influence developmental processes under study. Media samples were supplemented with retinoids and exposed to cell culture conditions with and without mouse embryonic stem cells (mESC), and retinoids were extracted and analyzed using HPLC. To determine whether retinoids are stable in media supplemented with fetal bovine serum (FBS) or in chemically-defined, serum-free media, mESC adapted to each type of growth media were investigated. Studies reported here indicate there was little loss or isomerization of at-RA, 9-cis-RA, 13-cis-RA, or ROL in cell cultures grown in serum-supplemented media when cell cultures were maintained in the dark and manipulated and observed under yellow light. In contrast, the stability of both at-RA and ROL were determined to be greatly reduced in serum-free media as compared with serum-supplemented media. Addition of 6 mg/ml bovine serum albumin was found to stabilize retinoids in serum-free media. It was also determined that ROL is less stable than RA in cell culture conditions.


retinoic acid, cell culture condition, retinoid integrity

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