Greater synergism of retinoic acid receptor (RAR) agonists with vitamin D3 than that of retinoid X receptor (RXR) agonists with regard to growth inhibition and differentiation induction in monoblastic leukemia cells

Biochem Pharmacol. 1999 Mar 1;57(5):521-9. doi: 10.1016/s0006-2952(98)00329-3.


Retinoids and 1alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (VD3) cooperatively induce the differentiation of myeloid leukemia cells. We investigated the role of retinoid receptors (RARs and RXRs) in the combined effects of retinoids and VD3 on growth inhibition and differentiation induction in human monoblastic leukemia U937 cells by using RAR- or RXR-selective retinoids. An isobologram analysis showed that both combinations were synergistic with regard to inhibiting the proliferation, and RAR agonists exhibited greater synergism with VD3 than did RXR agonists. RXR agonists alone induced nitroblue tetrazolium (NBT) reduction and expression of CD11b in U937 cells, whereas RAR agonists alone did not. On the other hand, RAR agonists and RXR agonists enhanced the differentiation induced by VD3, but RXR agonists required higher concentrations. An RAR antagonist inhibited the differentiation induced by RAR agonists plus VD3, but not that induced by RXR agonists plus VD3. Thus, RARs and RXRs act differently in their synergism with VD3. RAR agonists are more potent than RXR agonists with regard to synergism with VD3, and their combination may be useful in differentiation therapy against myeloid leukemia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alitretinoin
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects*
  • Cell Division / drug effects*
  • Cholecalciferol / pharmacology*
  • Drug Synergism
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid / agonists*
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Retinoid X Receptors
  • Retinoids / pharmacology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Transcription Factors / agonists*
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology*
  • U937 Cells


  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • Retinoid X Receptors
  • Retinoids
  • Transcription Factors
  • Cholecalciferol
  • Alitretinoin
  • Tretinoin