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Structure. 1994 Dec 15;2(12):1241-58.

Crystal structures of cellular retinoic acid binding proteins I and II in complex with all-trans-retinoic acid and a synthetic retinoid.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Uppsala University, Sweden.



Retinoic acid (RA) plays a fundamental role in diverse cellular activities. Cellular RA binding proteins (CRABPs) are thought to act by modulating the amount of RA available to nuclear RA receptors. CRABPs and cellular retinol-binding proteins (CRBPs) share a unique fold of two orthogonal beta-sheets that encapsulate their ligands. It has been suggested that a trio of residues are the prime determinants defining the high specificity of CRBPs and CRABPs for their physiological ligands.


Bovine/murine CRABP I and human CRABP II have been crystallized in complex with their natural ligand, all-trans-RA. Human CRABP II has also been crystallized in complex with a synthetic retinoid, 'compound 19'. Their structures have been determined and refined at resolutions of 2.9 A, 1.8 A and 2.2 A, respectively.


The retinoid-binding site in CRABPs differs significantly from that observed in CRBP. Structural changes in three juxtaposed areas of the protein create a new, displaced binding site for RA. The carboxylate of the ligand interacts with the expected trio of residues (Arg132, Tyr134 and Arg111; CRABP II numbering). The RA ligand is almost flat with the beta-ionone ring showing a significant deviation (-33 degrees) from a cis conformation relative to the isoprene tail. The edge atoms of the beta-ionone ring are accessible to solvent in a suitable orientation for presentation to metabolizing enzymes. The bulkier synthetic retinoid causes small conformational changes in the protein structure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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