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Adv Pharmacol. 2015;74:373-412. doi: 10.1016/bs.apha.2015.04.006. Epub 2015 May 27.

Role of Retinoic Acid-Metabolizing Cytochrome P450s, CYP26, in Inflammation and Cancer.

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Department of Pharmaceutics, School of Pharmacy, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Department of Pharmaceutics, School of Pharmacy, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA. Electronic address:


Vitamin A (retinol) and its active metabolite, all-trans-retinoic acid (atRA), play critical roles in regulating the differentiation, growth, and migration of immune cells. Similarly, as critical signaling molecules in the regulation of the cell cycle, retinoids are important in cancers. Concentrations of atRA are tightly regulated in tissues, predominantly by the availability of retinol, synthesis of atRA by ALDH1A enzymes and metabolism and clearance of atRA by CYP26 enzymes. The ALDH1A and CYP26 enzymes are expressed in several cell types in the immune system and in cancer cells. In the immune system, the ALDH1A and CYP26 enzymes appear to modulate RA concentrations. Consequently, alterations in the activity of ALDH1A and CYP26 enzymes are expected to change disease outcomes in inflammation. There is increasing evidence from various disease models of intestinal and skin inflammation that treatment with atRA has a positive effect on disease markers. However, whether aberrant atRA concentrations or atRA synthesis and metabolism play a role in inflammatory disease development and progression is not well understood. In cancers, especially in acute promyelocytic leukemia and neuroblastoma, increasing intracellular concentrations of atRA appears to provide clinical benefit. Inhibition of the CYP26 enzymes to increase atRA concentrations and combat therapy resistance has been pursued as a drug target in these cancers. This chapter covers the current knowledge of how atRA and retinol regulate the immune system and inflammation, how retinol and atRA metabolism is altered in inflammation and cancer, and what roles atRA-metabolizing enzymes have in immune responses and cancers.


CYP26; Inflammatory bowel disease; Leukemia; Neuroblastoma; Psoriasis; Retinoic acid; Vitamin A

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