The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 42: 601 - 608 (1998)

Vol 42, Issue 4

The use of a retinoid receptor antagonist in a new model to study vitamin A-dependent developmental events

Published: 1 May 1998

D M Kochhar, H Jiang, J D Penner, A T Johnson and R A Chandraratna

Department of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, USA.


Multiple fetal anomalies occur in vitamin A deficient animals as well as in retinoic acid receptor gene 'knockout' mice, indicating that retinoic acid (an active metabolite of vitamin A) performs some essential functions in normal development. Additional approaches are needed to probe directly the stages and sites in the embryo where a presence of endogenous retinoic acid is indispensable. We have employed a new strategy for this purpose which involved an intervention in retinoic acid receptor (RAR)-dependent functions at specific developmental stages by means of a highly effective RAR antagonist, AGN 193109. We report that in an in vitro cell differentiation bioassay, AGN 193109 completely reversed the inhibitory action of a potent RAR agonist, AGN 190121. In pregnant mice, a single oral 1 mg/kg dose of the antagonist given on 8 day post coitum (dpc) produced a severe craniofacial anomaly (median cleft face or frontonasal dysplasia) and eye malformations in virtually all exposed fetuses. On the other hand, treatment on 11 dpc, a time in development when RARs are strategically expressed in the limb bud primordium, no limb anomalies could be induced by the antagonist. Even after a high dose of 100 mg/kg, limb development progressed normally in spite of the fact that measurable concentrations of the antagonist were present. Because retinoids are long known to influence skin morphology, we next monitored the effects of the antagonist on skin development. When given late in gestation, on 14 dpc, we found that the antagonist delayed differentiation and maturation of the fetal skin and hair follicles. We conclude that this model provides a convenient and pertinent system which enables us to seek and clarify true functions of retinoic acid and its cognate receptors in embryogenesis and in adult animals.

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