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J Neurosci. 1997 Oct 1;17(19):7441-9.

Retinoic acid synthesis in the developing chick retina.

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E. Kennedy Shriver Center for Mental Retardation, Waltham, Massachusetts 02254, USA.


The transcriptional activator retinoic acid (RA) has been shown to influence the early patterning of the vertebrate eye. Models for the establishment of the retinofugal projection postulate gradients of cell-surface markers across the retinal surface that are expressed by ganglion cells and mediate the correct connection of fibers within central target fields. Spatial asymmetries of RA and RA-producing enzymes, as have been found in the eyes of mice and zebrafish, could induce the required asymmetry in gene expression. Here we exploited the large size of the retina of the embryonic chick to analyze the spatial and temporal characteristics of the RA system by HPLC in combination with a reporter cell assay. As in other embryonic vertebrates, the chick retina was found to contain different RA-generating enzymes segregated along the dorsoventral axis. The major RA isomer in both dorsal and ventral retina was all-trans RA, and no 9-cis RA could be detected. This excludes a difference in production of these two isomers as an explanation for the expression of different RA-generating enzymes. At developmental stages embryonic days (E) 4 and 5, the ventral retina contained higher all-trans RA levels than the dorsal retina. After E8, however, the difference disappeared, and in embryos at E9 and older the RA concentration was slightly higher in dorsal than ventral retina.

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