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Dev Biol. 1999 Jun 15;210(2):288-304.

Differential distribution of retinoic acid synthesis in the chicken embryo as determined by immunolocalization of the retinoic acid synthetic enzyme, RALDH-2.

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, 05405, USA.


Retinaldehyde dehydrogenase type 2 (RALDH-2) is a major retinoic acid generating enzyme in the early embryo. Here we report the immunolocalization of this enzyme (RALDH-2-IR) in stage 6-29 chicken embryos; we also show that tissues that exhibit strong RALDH-2-IR in the embryo contain RALDH-2 and synthesize retinoic acid. RALDH-2-IR indicates dynamic and discrete patterns of retinoic acid synthesis in the embryo, particularly within the somitic mesoderm, lateral mesoderm, kidney, heart, and spinal motor neurons. Prior to somitogenesis, RALDH-2-IR is present in the paraxial mesoderm with a rostral boundary at the level of the presumptive first somite; as the somites form, they exhibit strong RALDH-2-IR. Cervical presomitic mesoderm exhibits RALDH-2-IR but thoracic presomitic mesoderm does not. Neural crest cells do not express detectable levels of RALDH-2, but migrating crest cells are associated with RALDH-2 expressing mesoderm. The developing limb mesoderm expresses little RALDH-2-IR; however, RALDH-2-IR is strongly expressed in tissues adjacent to the limb. The most lateral, earliest-projecting motor neurons at all levels of the spinal cord exhibit RALDH-2-IR. Subsequently, many additional motor neurons in the brachial and lumbar cord regions express RALDH-2-IR. Motor neuronal expression of RALDH-2-IR is present in the growing axons as they extend to the periphery, indicating a potential role of retinoic acid in nerve influences on peripheral differentiation. With the exception of a transient expression in the facial/vestibulocochlear nucleus, cranial motor neurons do not express detectable levels of RALDH-2-IR.

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