The Role and Epigenetic Modification of the Retinoic Acid Receptor

  • Yukihiko Kato
Reference work entry


Dietary vitamin A is converted to retinoids, including retinal, retinol, and retinoic acid, in the metabolic pathway. Two types of retinoic acid exist in the cell nucleus along with two types of receptor, the retinoic acid receptor (RAR) and retinoic X receptor (RXR) each of which has three subtypes, α, β, and γ. Retinoic acid receptors are involved in a wide variety of functions including mediating cell differentiation, tissue growth, blood vessel formation, the emotional and cognitive functions, and tumor suppression.

RARβ, a tumor suppressor gene, is epigenetically suppressed in most cancers. Epigenetic modification of RAR in many cancers includes DNA methylation and histone hypoacetylation. Histone deacetylase inhibitor and RA restore RAR expression and have shown a strong antitumor effect. The epigenetic modification of RAR could have clinical applications such as in diagnosing malignancies.

In the future, as many other types of epigenetic modifications become better understood, we can expect their diagnostic and therapeutic applications to be greatly expanded.


Vitamin A All-trans retinoic acid Retinoic acid receptor 9-cis-retinoic acid Retinoic X receptor Retinoid Tumor suppressor gene RARβ2 Histone deacetylase Hypoacetylation 

List of Abbreviations


All-trans retinoic acid


9-cis-retinoic acid


Histone deacetylase


Retinoic acid


Retinoic acid receptor


Receptor responsive element


Retinoic X receptor


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of DermatologyTokyo Medical University Hachioji Medical CenterTokyoJapan

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