A review of the functional role and of the expression profile of retinoid signaling and of nuclear receptors in human spinal cord

Brain Res Bull. 2007 Mar 15;71(5):437-46. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2006.10.032. Epub 2006 Dec 1.


Spinal cord degenerative pathologies in humans cause extensive disability and require a broad range of specialist and palliative medical interventions. In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), motor cell loss leads to extensive paralysis and to death from respiratory failure in 3-5 years form disease onset. A wide range of molecular changes forms the basis of spinal cord involvement in ALS, including the reactivation of molecular pathways with potentially neurorestorative properties. Central to this tissue repair mechanism is the differential regulation of components of the retinoid signaling (ReS), a molecular pathway encompassing a variety of proteins functioning as transporters, signaling factors and metabolizing enzymes for retinoic acid. In this paper, we review the strong body of experimental evidence supporting retinoid signaling's primary role in spinal cord embryonic differentiation and its likely survival-promoting function in ALS. We discuss the potential involvement in ALS pathogenesis of a subgroup of nuclear receptors (NRs) that act as functional partners of retinoid receptors in human spinal cord. We also provide a review of the expression profile of 25 ReS and NRs genes in human adult spinal cord and in motor neurons of healthy and ALS individuals, using data retrieved from independent datasets obtained through serial analysis of gene expression and array investigations. Based on published expression data, we outline a tentative expression profile of ReS and functionally synergic NR genes in human spinal cord that could guide further experiments to clarify the role of these molecules in mature nervous tissue and suggest potential treatment strategies that could have therapeutic potentials in ALS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / therapy
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism*
  • Retinoids / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord* / embryology
  • Spinal Cord* / growth & development
  • Spinal Cord* / metabolism


  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Retinoids