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Mol Pharmacol. 1991 Oct;40(4):556-62.

Selective high affinity retinoic acid receptor alpha or beta-gamma ligands.

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Centre International de Recherches Dermatologiques Galderma (CIRD Galderma), Sophia Antipolis, Valbonne, France.


Biological effects of retinoic acid (RA) are mediated through its binding to three closely related nuclear receptors (RAR alpha, RAR beta, and RAR gamma) belonging to the steroid-thyroid nuclear receptor family. RARs are able to modulate the transcription of specific genes by binding to responsive elements located in the promoter-enhancer region of these genes. As demonstrated by in situ hybridization, the distribution of each RAR type in the developing embryo, as well as in the adult, is not uniform. In this context, synthetic retinoids that would behave as selective ligands would be invaluable for studying the respective roles of each RAR type in cultured cells, whole animals, and embryos. Moreover, from a pharmacological point of view, such selective compounds may possess a higher therapeutic index and a lower teratogenic risk, because they might affect specific tissues and spare some others. As an approach to this problem, we have set up two complementary assays, (i) an in vitro binding assay to determine the Kd values of retinoids for RAR alpha, RAR beta, and RAR gamma and (ii) a functional assay in cultured cells to evaluate the potential of retinoids to transactivate, through their binding to one type of RAR, a reporter gene. The binding assay uses nuclear extracts of COS-7 cells transfected with vectors expressing RAR alpha, RAR beta, or RAR gamma. The functional assay is a measure of chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) activity in HeLa cells co-transfected with the expression vectors used in the binding assay and the reporter gene TRE-tk-CAT. Selective agonists for RAR alpha (Am80 and Am580) and RAR beta-RAR gamma (CD495 and CD564) were identified. However, compounds with pure RAR beta or RAR gamma selectivity have not yet been identified.

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