Retinoic Acid and Its Role in Modulating Intestinal Innate Immunity

Nutrients. 2017 Jan 13;9(1):68. doi: 10.3390/nu9010068.


Vitamin A (VA) is amongst the most well characterized food-derived nutrients with diverse immune modulatory roles. Deficiency in dietary VA has not only been associated with immune dysfunctions in the gut, but also with several systemic immune disorders. In particular, VA metabolite all-trans retinoic acid (atRA) has been shown to be crucial in inducing gut tropism in lymphocytes and modulating T helper differentiation. In addition to the widely recognized role in adaptive immunity, increasing evidence identifies atRA as an important modulator of innate immune cells, such as tolerogenic dendritic cells (DCs) and innate lymphoid cells (ILCs). Here, we focus on the role of retinoic acid in differentiation, trafficking and the functions of innate immune cells in health and inflammation associated disorders. Lastly, we discuss the potential involvement of atRA during the plausible crosstalk between DCs and ILCs.

Keywords: dendritic cells; innate immunity; innate lymphoid cells; retinoic acid; vitamin A.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Dendritic Cells / drug effects
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Homeostasis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects*
  • Intestines / drug effects*
  • Intestines / immunology*
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology*


  • Tretinoin