Squamous differentiation and retinoids

  • Reuben M. Lotan
Part of the Cancer Treatment and Research book series (CTAR, volume 74)


Retinoids are structural or functional analogues of vitamin A, or retinol. They exert profound effects on the growth, maturation, and differentiation of many cells types, particularly epithelial cells, both in vivo and in vitro [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. Vitamin A exerts a major effect on normal differentiation of epithelial cells, including those lining the oral cavity and upper aerodigestive tract [9]. The maintenance of the mucus-secreting function of these cells depends on the continuous presence of vitamin A. In its absence, squamous metaplasia develops that can be reversed by vitamin A replenishment [8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14]. ß-alltrans-retinoic acid (tRA) can replace vitamin A in restoration of normal differentiation of epithelial tissues in vitamin A-deficient animals [14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19]. It is thought that squamous metaplasia in the upper aerodigestive epithelium is a precursor of certain cancers [20] and that agents like retinoids, which suppress keratinization and restore the normal nonkeratinizing phenotype to premalignant and malignant lesions, may also restore their responsiveness to normal growth control mechanisms. Consequently, such agents could suppress carcinogenesis and be useful in the prevention and treatment of squamous cell carcinomas [21, 22, 23]. This chapter describes the effects of retinoids on squamous differentiation in normal, premalignant, and malignant epithelial tissues.


Retinoic Acid Retinoic Acid Receptor Squamous Differentiation Cornified Envelope Cellular Retinoic Acid Binding Protein 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Reuben M. Lotan

There are no affiliations available

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