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J Biol Chem. 1988 Nov 25;263(33):17372-7.

Biogenesis of retinoic acid from beta-carotene. Differences between the metabolism of beta-carotene and retinal.

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Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, State University of New York, Buffalo 14214.


The ability of beta-carotene to serve as precursor to retinoic acid was examined in vitro with cytosol prepared from rat tissues. The rate of retinoic acid synthesis from 10 microM beta-carotene ranged from 120 to 224 pmol/h/mg of protein with intestinal cytosol, and from 344 to 488 pmol/h/mg of protein with cytosols prepared from kidney, lung, testes, and liver. Retinol generated during beta-carotene metabolism was not the major substrate for retinoic acid synthesis. At low substrate concentrations (2.5 microM), the rates of retinoic acid synthesis in intestinal cytosol from beta-carotene or retinol were equivalent, and at higher concentrations (10 microM) the rates of retinoic acid synthesis from beta-carotene or retinol in intestine, testes, lung, and kidney were comparable. Thus, beta-carotene metabolism may be an important source of retinoic acid in retinoid target tissues, particularly in species such as humans that are capable of accumulating high concentrations of tissue carotenoids. Retinal, considered an initial retinoid product of beta-carotene metabolism, was not detected as a product of beta-carotene metabolism in vitro. A ratio of retinol and retinoic acid different from that observed during beta-carotene metabolism in vitro was observed with incubations of retinal under identical conditions. These data indicated that beta-carotene metabolism is not merely a simple process of producing retinal and releasing it into solution to be metabolized independently.

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