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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35138. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035138. Epub 2012 Apr 6.

Retinol metabolism in the mollusk Osilinus lineatus indicates an ancient origin for retinyl ester storage capacity.

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CIMAR/CIIMAR (Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research), University of Porto, Porto, Portugal.


Although retinoids have been reported to be present and active in vertebrates and invertebrates, the presence of mechanisms for retinoid storage in the form of retinyl esters, a key feature to maintain whole-organism retinoid homeostasis, have been considered to date a vertebrate innovation. Here we demonstrate for the first time the presence of retinol and retinyl esters in an invertebrate lophotrochozoan species, the gastropod mollusk Osilinus lineatus. Furthermore, through a pharmacological approach consisting of intramuscular injections of different retinoid precursors, we also demonstrate that the retinol esterification pathway is active in vivo in this species. Interestingly, retinol and retinyl esters were only detected in males, suggesting a gender-specific role for these compounds in the testis. Females, although lacking detectable levels of retinol or retinyl esters, also have the biochemical capacity to esterify retinol, but at a lower rate than males. The occurrence of retinyl ester storage capacity, together with the presence in males and females of active retinoids, i.e., retinoic acid isomers, indicates that O. lineatus has a well developed retinoid system. Hence, the present data strongly suggest that the capacity to maintain retinoid homeostasis has arisen earlier in Bilateria evolution than previously thought.

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