Retinoic acid promotes neural and represses mesodermal gene expression in mouse embryonic stem cells in culture

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1996 Jun 25;223(3):691-4. doi: 10.1006/bbrc.1996.0957.


Mouse embryonic stem cells treated with retinoic acid are induced to differentiate into neuron-like cells (Bain et al. (1995) Dev. Biol. 168, 342-357). Here we have examined the expression of a set of neural- and mesoderm-specific genes during this in vitro differentiation process. mRNAs encoding the neural genes Wnt-1, MASH1, the light and medium isoforms of neurofilaments, and the neurotransmitter-synthesizing enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase are all strongly upregulated by retinoic acid treatment; expression of these genes occurs in a temporal pattern resembling that in the developing brain. In contrast, retinoic acid blocks the expression of the mesodermal genes Brachyury, cardiac actin, and zeta-globin. Thus, retinoic acid exerts both pro-neuronal and anti-mesodermal activities on mouse embryonic stem cells in culture.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Probes
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / drug effects
  • Mesoderm / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Nervous System / drug effects
  • Nervous System / embryology
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Stem Cells / physiology
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology*


  • DNA Probes
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tretinoin