Skeletal formation is a fundamental element of body patterning and is strictly regulated both temporally and spatially by a variety of molecules. Among these, retinoic acid (RA) has been shown to be involved in normal skeletal development. However, its pleiotropic effects have caused difficulty in identifying its crucial target cells and molecular mechanisms for each effect. Development of cartilage primordia is an important process in defining the skeletal structures. To address the role of RA in skeletal formation, we have generated mice expressing a dominant-negative retinoic acid receptor (RAR) in chondrogenic cells by using the type II collagen α1 promoter, and we have analyzed their phenotypes. These mice exhibited small cartilage primordia during development and retarded skeletal formation in both embryonic and postnatal periods. They also showed selective degeneration in their cervical vertebrae combined with homeotic transformations, but not in their extremities. The cervical phenotypes are reminiscent of phenotypes involving homeobox genes. We found that the expression of Hoxa-4 was indeed reduced in the cartilage primordia of cervical vertebrae of embryonic day 12.5 embryos. These observations demonstrate that endogenous RA acts directly on chondrogenic cells to promote skeletal growth in both embryonic and growing periods, and it regulates the proper formation of cervical vertebrae. Furthermore, RA apparently specifies the identities of the cervical vertebrae through the regulation of homeobox genes in the chondrogenic cells. Great similarities of the phenotypes between our mice and reported RAR knockout mice revealed that chondrogenic cells are a principal RA target during complex cascades of skeletal development.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Jun 23 1998|
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