Retinoic acid (RA) is an essential growth factor, derived from vitamin A, which controls growth by activating specific receptors that are members of the nuclear receptor family of transcriptional regulators. Its function in control of growth and differentiation in the embryonic CNS has been extensively investigated, but a role for RA in the mature brain has only recently become apparent. Although the adult CNS has much less capacity for change compared to the embryonic CNS, a limited amount of flexibility, referred to as neural plasticity, still exists. It is these processes that RA influences in the adult brain, including long-term potentiation and neurogenesis. The hippocampus is a brain region dependent upon neural plasticity for its function in learning and memory, and this review focuses on the roles that RA may play in regulating these processes in the adult.
(c) 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.