The researchers studied the role of LRAT, a protein that facilitates the formation of vitamin A stores in the body, during embryonic development. In particular, they showed how LRAT protects developing tissues from potentially toxic levels of vitamin A that have been ingested by the mother. Although this function of LRAT had previously been hypothesized in adults, this is the first time that its role has been demonstrated during embryonic development.
The developing mammalian embryo is entirely dependent on the maternal circulation for its supply of retinoids, the vitamin A metabolites produced in the body. These are essential nutrients and they control the formation of the embryo’s heart, central nervous system, eyes and other important organs and tissues. Malformations of the developing embryo can occur when too little, or too much, vitamin A is consumed by the mother.
“We were looking for the mechanisms that allow the fetus to maintain adequate amount of retinoids, whether the mother has over- or under-consumed vitamin A,” said Dr. Loredana Quadro, an assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and member of the Center for Lipid Research at the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “We also looked at the effects of different levels of vitamin A being transferred from the mother to the fetus.”
When vitamin A is ingested, it is converted into retinyl ester (RE) in the intestine from where it is secreted in the bloodstream packaged with other dietary lipids into lipoprotein particles called chylomicrons. The majority of dietary RE reaches the liver, the main body storage site of vitamin A. Under insufficient dietary vitamin A intake, the liver transforms RE into retinol (ROH), which is then secreted into the bloodstream bound to retinol-binding protein (RBP), its sole specific serum carrier, to be delivered to the target tissues. Upon intake through a specific membrane receptor named Stra6, ROH is ultimately converted to retinoic acid (RA), which is the active form of vitamin A. If tissue RA is in excess, it is transformed into inactive forms, such as 4-hydroxy retinoic acid or 4-oxo retinoic acid (OXO-RA) by the action of a specific enzyme named Cyp26A1.
“When we think about vitamin A, we think about one compound,” said Quadro. “But in reality, the term vitamin A comprises a family of different compounds. Each one has a slightly different action, and plays a different role.”
The Rutgers researchers took a closer look at how ROH is metabolized into RE and RA to maintain an optimal balance of retinoids during the formation of the embryo. Mutant mice lacking both RBP and LRAT were generated to perform this study, so as to interfere with the two main pathways of maternal vitamin A delivery to the fetus (ROH-RBP from the liver stores and RE of dietary origin).
“We hypothesized that the lack of ROH-RBP and LRAT would make the embryo more vulnerable to changes in maternal dietary vitamin A intake,” said Quadro “and our data proved this to be correct. Indeed, a severe embryonic vitamin A deficiency is readily attainable when the mothers are deprived of dietary vitamin A during pregnancy. Therefore, this strain turned out to be a very good model to study how embryonic development is affected by fluctuations in the amount of retinoids present in the maternal diet and hence in the maternal circulation”.
The researchers identified LRAT, Cyp26A1 and Stra6 as the three key molecular players that act in coordination to protect the developing tissues from potentially detrimental levels of vitamin A ingested by the mother. Understanding vitamin A metabolism in the developing fetus could have broad implications. Consumption of large doses of dietary supplements and vitamins, including vitamin A, has become a very common practice in recent years, generating the necessity to investigate the effects of high doses of vitamin A intake at different stages of the lifecycle, including pregnancy and development. These studies expand our knowledge of maternal-fetal nutrition and dietary contribution to embryonic development and may ultimately provide new insight into appropriate dietary practices during pregnancy.
This research was lead by Quadro and carried out primarily by her lab members, Youn-Kyung Kim, a graduate assistant, and Dr. Lesley Wassef, a post-doctoral associate. Others contributing to the study were Leora Hamberger, a former research assistant in Quadro’s laboratory, Dr. William Blaner and Roseann Piantedosi from Columbia University and Dr. Krzysztof Palczewski from Case Western Reserve.
The paper was previously published on the Journal of Biological Chemistry’s web site on December 19, 2007.Contact: Michele Hujber
Michele Hujber | EurekAlert!
NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...
The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...
At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.
When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...
At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.
Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
08.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences
16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
16.03.2018 | Life Sciences