Retinoic acid acts as a signalling molecule regulating many developmental events in vertebrates. As this molecule directly influences gene expression by activating nuclear receptors, its patterns of synthesis have to be tightly regulated, and it is well established that at least three retinaldehyde dehydrogenases (RALDHs) are involved in such tissue-specific synthesis. Whereas embryos from oviparous species can obtain retinaldehyde by metabolizing carotenoids stored in the yolk, placental embryos rely on retinol transferred from the maternal circulation. Here, we show that the gene encoding one of the murine retinol dehydrogenases, Rdh10, is expressed according to complex profiles both during early embryogenesis and organ differentiation. Many of its expression sites correlate with regions of active retinoid signalling and Raldh gene expression, especially with Raldh2 in the early presomitic and somitic mesoderm, retrocardiac and posterior branchial arch region, or later in the pleural mesothelium and kidney cortical region. Rdh10 also shows cell-type and/or regional specificity during development of the palate, teeth, and olfactory system. During limb bud development, it may participate in retinoic acid production in proximal/posterior cells, and eventually in interdigital mesenchyme. These data implicate the retinol to retinaldehyde conversion as the first step in the tissue-specific regulation of retinoic acid synthesis, at least in mammalian embryos.
2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.