Retinoic acid (RA) is one of the principal active metabolites of vitamin A (retinol) which mediates a spectrum of critical physiological and developmental processes. Transcriptional regulation by RA is mediated primarily by members of the retinoic acid receptor (RAR) subfamily of the nuclear receptor (NR) superfamily of transcription factors. NRs bind specific genomic DNA sequence motifs and engage coregulators and components of the basal transcription machinery to effect transcriptional regulation at target gene promoters. Disruption of signaling by retinoic acid is thought to underlie the etiology of a number of inflammatory and neoplastic diseases including breast cancer and haematological malignancies. A meeting of international researchers in retinoid signaling was convened in Strasbourg in September 2011 under the auspices of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). Retinoids 2011 encompassed myriad mechanistic, biological and pathological aspects of these hormones and their cognate receptors, as well as setting these advances in the context of wider current questions on signaling by members of the NR superfamily.