The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 39: 587 - 596 (1995)

Vol 39, Issue 4

Characterization of cDNAs encoding two chick retinoic acid receptor alpha isoforms and distribution of retinoic acid receptor alpha, beta and gamma transcripts during chick skin development

Published: 1 August 1995

J J Michaille, B Kanzler, S Blanchet, J M Garnier and D Dhouailly

Laboratoire de Biologie de la Différenciation Epithéliale, Institut Albert Bonniot, Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France.


The amino acid sequence of the retinoic acid receptors alpha, beta and gamma (RAR alpha, beta and gamma) can be divided into six functional domains (A-F), different isoforms arising from the presence of different A domains by differential splicing. In order to address the respective roles of the different RARs during skin morphogenesis in birds, cDNAs encoding two chick RAR alpha isoforms (alpha1 and alpha2) have been isolated. While the A1 and B-F domains of the RAR alpha are highly conserved across species, the chick A2 domain contains 50% specific amino acids. The three RAR alpha, beta and gamma genes display specific patterns of expression during chick skin morphogenesis. As in mouse, RAR alpha and gamma transcripts are present in both the dermis and epidermis during the first stages of skin appendage formation. Furthermore, Northern blot analysis suggests that different RAR alpha and gamma isoforms could be successively required during feather formation. The RAR gamma gene, continuously expressed in the epidermal cells in both chick and mouse, is thus likely to play a similar role in skin development in these two species. However, RAR alpha transcripts, only transiently detected during mouse skin development, still accumulate in epidermis during the later stages of chick skin differentiation. Furthermore, RAR beta transcripts, never detected during normal development in mouse skin, are actually present at the early stages of chick skin morphogenesis. Thus, our results suggest that the role of the three RAR in skin development has not been strictly conserved in the different classes of vertebrates.

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