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Dev Dyn. 1996 May;206(1):39-48.

Selective regulation of cardiomyocyte gene expression and cardiac morphogenesis by retinoic acid.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Early heart development is known to be sensitive to retinoid concentrations; a specific pattern of malformations is observed in both vitamin A-deficiency and retinoid-toxicity states. While the influence of retinoids on early cardiac morphogenesis has been described previously, the effect of retinoids upon cardiomyocyte differentiation and gene expression is largely uncharacterized. We have established an in ovo chick embryo model in which slow-release retinoic acid (RA) induces four distinct cardiac malformations in a dose-dependent fashion. Late primitive streak-stage chick embryos were treated with all-trans-retinoic acid released from anion exchange beads placed on the embryo's left side and then allowed to develop further for 20-24 hr. At low doses (10 and 25 micrograms/ml RA) an abnormal loop structure was observed. At higher doses (50 and 100 micrograms/ml RA) cardia bifida and clustered heart tissue were noted. Situs inversus only occurred after treatment with 100 micrograms/ml RA. RA-treated embryos were subsequently analyzed for appropriate cardiac myocyte differentiation using antibody staining and ELISA analysis to detect sarcomeric myosin heavy chain, tropomyosin, titin, and alpha-actinin protein expression. Alpha-actinin expression was significantly decreased in RA-treated embryos, as compared to DMSO-treated controls. Also, heart contraction rate was depressed after RA exposure. RA exposure did not alter the protein expression levels of sarcomeric myosin heavy chain or tropomyosin. The observed alterations are consistent with suggestions that retinoids may affect both morphogenesis and myofibril formation in the developing heart.

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