Spatial and temporal expression of the retinoic acid receptor in the regenerating amphibian limb

Nature. 1989 Feb 9;337(6207):566-9. doi: 10.1038/337566a0.


Retinoic acid is known to have dramatic effects on vertebrate limb pattern in development and regeneration, supporting a model in which a gradient of retinoic acid serves as a morphogen to differentially supply positional information to a developing limb. The discovery of a retinoic acid receptor (RAR) and its homology to the steroid and thyroid hormone receptors provided a potential molecular mechanism for limb morphogenesis. One prediction of this model is that the receptor must be expressed in the developing and regenerating limb anlage. We investigated the expression of the RAR in the adult newt, Notophthalmus viridescens, whose amputated limbs are capable of regenerating and upon which retinoic acid can act to alter pattern. We report the cloning of cDNAs encoding a functional newt RAR and the localization of high and uniform levels of RAR mRNA specifically in the regenerating cells that control limb pattern. These results indicate that the morphogenic field is established through differential activation of pre-existing retinoic acid receptors rather than differential expression of the RAR gene.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / isolation & purification*
  • Hindlimb / drug effects
  • Hindlimb / physiology*
  • Injections, Intraperitoneal
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Notophthalmus viridescens
  • Nucleic Acid Hybridization
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • Regeneration* / drug effects
  • Tretinoin / administration & dosage
  • Tretinoin / metabolism*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • Tretinoin