In 1987, a tremendous boost in our understanding of the action of dietary vitamin A occurred with the discovery and characterization of nuclear receptors for retinoic acid, the active form of the vitamin, in the laboratories of P. Chambon and R. Evans. They have shown that the nuclear receptors are ligand-activated transcription factors capable of specific gene regulation. Since that discovery, it has been determined that there are at least six retinoic acid receptors belonging to two families, RARs and RXRs, that they are differentially expressed in various mammalian tissues, and that they act as homo- and heterodimers interacting with other ligand-activated nuclear receptors. The domain structure of the receptors has been described, and their DNA-binding, ligand-binding, dimerization, and transcriptional activation regions characterized. Among the most important retinoid-regulated genes are the homeobox proteins, regulatory transcription factors which are responsible for body axis formation, patterning, limb formation, and other crucial processes during development. Retinoic acid and its receptors also regulate many differentiation markers which are particularly important in stratified epithelia, such as skin and oral epithelia. Our increased understanding led to improved therapy of a large number of skin disorders, ranging from acne to wrinkles and including epidermal and oral carcinomas.
- gene regulation
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