Disseminated forms of neuroblastoma (NB), a tumor derived from neuroectodermal tissue, pose a major therapeutic challenge for pediatric oncology. By performing a comparative cDNA array analysis of metastatic neuroblasts versus primary xenograft from the human IGR-N-91 NB model, we were able to identify a set of downregulated developmental genes in metastatic neuroblasts. One of these genes was Wnt-5a, a member of the Wnt signaling pathway, known to be involved in the development of neural crest cells. Since we also found a significant decrease in Wnt-5a mRNA in unfavorable versus favorable categories in 37 primary NB tumors (P<0.007), we wondered whether retinoic acid (RA), which has a role in neural crest induction and differentiation, might reverse the aberrant negative regulation of Wnt-5a in metastatic malignant neuroblasts. Following treatment with 10 muM RA for 6 days, the MYCN-amplified IGR-N-91 cell lines underwent neuronal differentiation as assessed by reduced MYCN gene expression and neuritic extension. In these conditions, data showed an upregulation of Wnt-5a and PKC-theta; isoform expressions. Our study highlights, for the first time, the involvement of Wnt-5a, which has a role in embryonic and morphogenetic processes, in the response of malignant neuroblasts to RA. In conclusion, we demonstrated that RA, which is used in the treatment of high-risk NB patients with recurrent/residual disease in the bone marrow, is able to upregulate Wnt-5a gene expression.