Families of retinoid dehydrogenases regulating vitamin A function: production of visual pigment and retinoic acid

Eur J Biochem. 2000 Jul;267(14):4315-24. doi: 10.1046/j.1432-1327.2000.01497.x.


Vitamin A (retinol) and provitamin A (beta-carotene) are metabolized to specific retinoid derivatives which function in either vision or growth and development. The metabolite 11-cis-retinal functions in light absorption for vision in chordate and nonchordate animals, whereas all-trans-retinoic acid and 9-cis-retinoic acid function as ligands for nuclear retinoic acid receptors that regulate gene expression only in chordate animals. Investigation of retinoid metabolic pathways has resulted in the identification of numerous retinoid dehydrogenases that potentially contribute to metabolism of various retinoid isomers to produce active forms. These enzymes fall into three major families. Dehydrogenases catalyzing the reversible oxidation/reduction of retinol and retinal are members of either the alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) or short-chain dehydrogenase/reductase (SDR) enzyme families, whereas dehydrogenases catalyzing the oxidation of retinal to retinoic acid are members of the aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) family. Compilation of the known retinoid dehydrogenases indicates the existence of 17 nonorthologous forms: five ADHs, eight SDRs, and four ALDHs, eight of which are conserved in both mouse and human. Genetic studies indicate in vivo roles for two ADHs (ADH1 and ADH4), one SDR (RDH5), and two ALDHs (ALDH1 and RALDH2) all of which are conserved between humans and rodents. For several SDRs (RoDH1, RoDH4, CRAD1, and CRAD2) androgens rather than retinoids are the predominant substrates suggesting a function in androgen metabolism as well as retinoid metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / chemistry
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / physiology
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase / chemistry
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase / physiology
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Models, Chemical
  • Multigene Family
  • Oxidoreductases / chemistry*
  • Oxidoreductases / genetics
  • Oxidoreductases / physiology*
  • Retinal Pigments / metabolism*
  • Tretinoin / metabolism*
  • Vitamin A / metabolism*


  • Retinal Pigments
  • Vitamin A
  • Tretinoin
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase