A variety of c-DNAs coding for nuclear retinoic acid receptors (RARs) have recently been cloned. These receptors are members of the steroid/thyroid receptor superfamily and are believed to act as ligand-inducible transactivating factors; retinoic acid induces changes in receptor configuration that allows DNA binding and increased gene transcription from specific genes to occur. The retinoic acid receptor family itself may consist of up to 20 separate receptors each with a specific distribution and ligand binding characteristics. The RAR-gamma in the adult is found almost exclusively in the skin but other receptors which are found in a variety of other tissues are also present in skin. Associations of cutaneous disease states with receptor mutants have not yet been reported although some cases of leukaemia may be secondary to retinoic acid receptor gene rearrangements. A variety of approaches to identify the biological function of these receptors based on recombinant DNA technology are already underway.