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Open Access Research

Acidic retinoids in small amounts promote retinyl ester formation in neonatal lung, with transient increases in retinoid homeostatic gene expression

Lili Wu1, Reza Zolfaghari1 and A Catharine Ross12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nutritional Sciences, 110 Chandlee Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, 16802 University Park, PA, USA

2 Department of Nutritional Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, 16802 University Park, PA, USA

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Nutrition & Metabolism 2013, 10:72  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-10-72

Published: 19 December 2013



Mixing a small proportion, 10%, of retinoic acid (RA) into an oral dose of vitamin A (VA) has been shown to markedly increase retinol uptake and retinyl ester (RE) formation in the neonatal lung, as compared to VA given alone. Concomitantly, several retinoid homeostatic genes, lecithin:retinol acyltransferase (LRAT), RA-4-hydroxylase (CYP26B1), and stimulated by retinoic acid gene-6 (STRA6) were upregulated. However, whether multiple doses may act accumulatively and whether less than 10% RA can be used has not been determined.


Neonatal rats were treated once on postnatal day (PD) 4 or PD14 with VA alone or VA combined with 10% RA (VARA10%) or a stable analog, Am580 (VAAm10%), or they were treated with multiple doses on PD4, 7, 11, and 14.


RE increased cumulatively with multiple dosing. However, LRAT, CYP26B1 and STRA6 mRNA levels were similar for single and multiple treatments, indicating a transient noncumulative impact on gene expression. Lung RE was elevated with as little as 0.5% RA (P < 0.05) in a single dosing study. Whereas all concentrations of VARA elevated lung RE in single dosing studies, only 10% RA increased lung RE after multiple dosing, suggesting an attenuation of RA action with repeated dosing. In contrast, VAAm10%, 2%, and 1% all significantly increased lung RE after multiple doses (P < 0.05), while also increasing the expression of LRAT and CYP26B1.


These results indicate that the neonatal lung is very sensitive to acidic retinoid exposure and suggest that a VA combined with a very small fraction of acidic retinoid could be effective in increasing the lung’s storage pool of VA.

Vitamin A supplementation; Acidic retinoids; Neonates; Lung