The purpose of this study is to clarify the role of retinoic acid (RA) in the mechanism of form-deprivation myopia (FDM) in the chick. FDM was induced in two-day old chicks by placement of a translucent plastic goggle over one eye, with the contralateral eye used as a control. After 12 days, the chicks were euthanized. RNA was extracted from scleras in the posterior segments, transcribed into cDNA, and amplified by PCR with primers specific for retinoic acid receptor (RAR) beta. G3PDH was used as a reference gene for normalization. The effects of RA, with or without TGF-beta, on the proliferation of scleral chondrocytes and scleral fibroblasts from 17-day chick embryos were studied by use of a colorimetric assay, and the alkaline phosphatase activities of those cells also studied. Furthermore, RAR beta expression in response to RA in cultured scleral cells was studied. As a result, RT-PCR products of the expected sizes were obtained from scleras from the myopic and control eyes. Expression of RAR beta in the myopic scleras was significantly higher than that in the controls. The proliferation of scleral chondrocytes and scleral fibroblasts was inhibited by treatment with RA in a dose-dependent manner (in 10% FBS). In the presence of TGF-beta (in 0.5% FBS), RA treatment stimulated the proliferation of scleral chondrocytes but inhibited the proliferation of scleral fibroblasts. RA induced alkaline phosphatase activities in both the scleral chondrocytes and scleral fibroblasts. RAR beta expression was induced by RA in cultured scleral cells. These results demonstrate that RA appears to play a role in the mechanism of FDM in the chick. However, it is also possible that the changes in the expression of RAR beta were secondary events related to other mechanisms responsible for ocular enlargement.