Disruption of retinoid transport, metabolism and signaling by environmental pollutants

Environ Int. 2008 Aug;34(6):898-913. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2007.12.024. Epub 2008 Feb 20.


Although the assessment of circulatory levels of retinoids has become a widely used biomarker of exposure to environmental pollutants, the adverse effects caused by imbalance of the retinoid metabolism and signaling in wildlife are not known in detail. Retinoids play an important role in controlling such vital processes as morphogenesis, development, reproduction or apoptosis. Unlike other signaling molecules, retinoids are not strictly endogenous but they are derived from dietary sources of vitamin A or its precursors and thus they are sometimes referred to as 'dietary' hormones. Some environmental pollutants that affect embryogenesis, immunity or epithelial functions were also shown to interfere with retinoid metabolism and signaling in animals. This suggests that at least some of their toxic effects may be related to interaction with the retinoid metabolism, transport or signal transduction. This review summarizes in vivo and in vitro studies on interaction of environmental complex samples, pesticides, polychlorinated dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic compounds and other organic pollutants with physiology of retinoids. It sums up contemporary knowledge about levels of interaction and mechanisms of action of the environmental contaminants.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / adverse effects
  • Pesticides / adverse effects
  • Plasticizers / adverse effects
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / adverse effects
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / adverse effects
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid / metabolism
  • Retinoids / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hypolipidemic Agents
  • Pesticides
  • Plasticizers
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • Retinoids
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls