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Development. 2007 Apr;134(7):1369-83. Epub 2007 Feb 28.

RALDH-independent generation of retinoic acid during vertebrate embryogenesis by CYP1B1.

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Wellcome Trust Functional Genomics Development Initiative, MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology, 4th Floor New Hunt's House, King's College London, Guy's Campus, London SE1 1UL, UK.


Several independent lines of evidence have revealed an instructive role for retinoic acid (RA) signalling in the establishment of normal pattern and cellular specification of the vertebrate embryo. Molecular analyses have previously identified the major RA-synthesising (RALDH1-3) and RA-degrading (CYP26A-C1) enzymes as well as other components involved in RA processing (e.g. CRABP). Although the majority of the early effects of RA can be attributed to the activity of RALDH2, many other effects are suggestive of the presence of an as yet unidentified RA source. Here we describe the identification, expression, biochemistry and functional analysis of CYP1B1, a member of the cytochrome p450 family of mono-oxygenases, and provide evidence that it contributes to RA synthesis during embryonic patterning. We present in vitro biochemical data demonstrating that this enzyme can generate both all-trans-retinal (t-RAL) and all-trans-retinoic acid (t-RA) from the precursor all-trans-retinol (t-ROH), but unlike the CYP26s, CYP1B1 cannot degrade t-RA. In particular, we focussed on the capacity of CYP1B1 to regulate the molecular mechanisms associated with dorsoventral patterning of the neural tube and acquisition of motor neuron progenitor domain identity. Concordant with its sites of expression and biochemistry, data are presented demonstrating that CYP1B1 is capable of eliciting responses that are consistent with the production of RA. Taken together, we propose that these data provide strong support for CYP1B1 being one of the RALDH-independent components by which embryos direct RA-mediated patterning.

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