The effects of diseases of the liver, thyroid, and kidneys on the transport of vitamin A in human plasma

J Clin Invest. 1971 Nov;50(11):2426-36. doi: 10.1172/JCI106741.


The effects of diseases of the liver, the thyroid, and the kidneys on the retinol-binding protein (RBP)-prealbumin (PA) system responsible for the transport of vitamin A in plasma were examined, using a radial gel diffusion immunoassay for PA and the previously described radioimmunoassay for RBP. Measurements were made on plasma samples from 118 normal subjects, 31 patients with cirrhosis, 5 with chronic active hepatitis, 27 with acute viral hepatitis, 14 patients with hyperthyroidism, 7 with hypothyroidism, and 26 patients with chronic renal disease of varying etiologies. In the patients with liver disease, the levels of vitamin A, RBP, and PA were all markedly decreased and were highly significantly correlated over a wide range of concentrations. Serial samples were available in 19 patients with acute hepatitis; as the disease improved the plasma concentrations of vitamin A, RBP, and PA all increased. In patients with acute hepatitis RBP concentrations correlated negatively with the levels of plasma bilirubin, glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase, and alkaline phosphatase. In the hyperthyroid patients both RBP and PA concentrations were significantly lower than normal; in hypothyroidism, neither protein showed levels significantly different from normal. In both hyper- and hypothyroidism and in liver disease, the molar ratios of RBP:PA and of RBP:vitamin A were not significantly different from normal.Patients with chronic renal disease had marked abnormalities in the plasma concentrations of RBP and vitamin A and in the molar ratios examined. In renal disease the levels of both RBP and vitamin A were greatly elevated, while the PA levels remained normal. The molar ratios of RBP:PA and of RBP:vitamin A were both markedly elevated. In many patients RBP was present in molar excess as compared with PA. The presence of a relatively large proportion of free RBP, not complexed to PA, in some patients with chronic renal disease was confirmed by gel filtration. The free RBP, present in molar excess, was capable of forming a complex with additional purified PA added to the plasma. The kidneys appear to play an important role in the normal metabolism of RBP.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biological Transport
  • Female
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Hepatitis / blood
  • Hepatitis / metabolism*
  • Hepatitis A / blood
  • Hepatitis A / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyperthyroidism / blood
  • Hyperthyroidism / metabolism*
  • Hypothyroidism / blood
  • Hypothyroidism / metabolism*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / blood
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / metabolism*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / blood
  • Liver Cirrhosis / metabolism*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nephrosclerosis
  • Polycystic Kidney Diseases
  • Protein Binding
  • Pyelonephritis
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism
  • Vitamin A / blood*
  • Vitamins / metabolism


  • Serum Albumin
  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin A