Retinoic Acid and Its Derivatives in Skin

Cells. 2020 Dec 11;9(12):2660. doi: 10.3390/cells9122660.


The retinoids are a group of compounds including vitamin A and its active metabolite all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA). Retinoids regulate a variety of physiological functions in multiple organ systems, are essential for normal immune competence, and are involved in the regulation of cell growth and differentiation. Vitamin A derivatives have held promise in cancer treatment and ATRA is used in differentiation therapy of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). ATRA and other retinoids have also been successfully applied in a variety of dermatological conditions such as skin cancer, psoriasis, acne, and ichthyosis. Moreover, modulation of retinoic acid receptors and retinoid X (or rexinoid) receptors function may affect dermal cells. The studies using complex genetic models with various combinations of retinoic acid receptors (RARs) and retinoid X (or rexinoid) receptors (RXRs) indicate that retinoic acid and its derivatives have therapeutic potential for a variety of serious dermatological disorders including some malignant conditions. Here, we provide a synopsis of the main advances in understanding the role of ATRA and its receptors in dermatology.

Keywords: all-trans-retinoic acid; dermatology; retinoic acid receptors; vitamin A.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / drug therapy
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / metabolism
  • Leukemia, Promyelocytic, Acute / pathology
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid / metabolism
  • Retinoid X Receptors / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Skin / cytology
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tretinoin / analogs & derivatives
  • Tretinoin / metabolism
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology*
  • Tretinoin / therapeutic use


  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • Retinoid X Receptors
  • Tretinoin