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Environ Sci Technol. 2004 Dec 1;38(23):6290-9.

Dietary retinoic acid induces hindlimb and eye deformities in Xenopus laevis.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W. dalsop@uoguelph.ca


This study investigated the effects of dietary retinoic acid (RA) on frog hindlimb development. Xenopus laevis (African clawed frog) tadpoles were fed a diet supplemented with 0, 1, 10, or 100 microg of RA/g of food for 2 or 5 d at different stages of metamorphosis. Hindlimb deformities were induced in the group fed 100 microg of RA/g of diet for 5 d. Exposures beginning at mid-hindlimb bud development induced bilaterally bent tibiafibula (bony triangles), while exposures later in hindlimb development induced deformities of the feet, including fusion of the 1st and 2nd clawed digits and reduced length of the 4th and 5th digits (due to reduced, missing, or misplaced phalanges). There were also cases of extra phalanges in the 5th digit. The eye was another target of RA exposure. In one experiment, 58% of the tadpoles fed 10 microg of RA/g had a smaller or absent right eye. Additionally, 11% of the tadpoles fed 100 microg of RA/g of diet developed a smaller or absent left eye. Waterborne heavy metals (Zn or Cu) modified RA effects on the hindlimb and eye. Co-exposure to metals and RA resulted in cases of unilateral bony triangles and reduced rates of smaller eyes. There were also cases of extra hindlimb digits in Zn-exposed animals. Dietary RA exposure in tadpoles can cause some deformities that differ from waterborne RA exposures in previous studies. RA also induced deformities that resemble those in affected wild frog populations (bony triangles), although the patterns of other deformities and missing segments (phalanges and metatarsals) are not similar to those documented in the wild.

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