Ethanol elevates physiological all-trans-retinoic acid levels in select loci through altering retinoid metabolism in multiple loci: a potential mechanism of ethanol toxicity.
All-trans-retinoic acid (atRA) supports embryonic development, central nervous system function, and the immune response. atRA initiates neurogenesis and dendritic growth in the hippocampus and is required for spatial memory; superphysiological atRA inhibits neurogenesis, causes teratology and/or embryo toxicity, and alters cognitive function and behavior. Because abnormal atRA shares pathological conditions with alcoholism, inhibition of retinol (vitamin A) activation into atRA has been credited widely as a mechanism of ethanol toxicity. Here, we analyze the effects of ethanol on retinoid concentrations in vivo during normal vitamin A nutriture, using sensitive and analytically robust assays. Ethanol either increased or had no effect on atRA, regardless of changes in retinol and retinyl esters. Acute ethanol (3.5 g/kg) increased atRA in adult hippocampus (1.6-fold), liver (2.4-fold), and testis (1.5-fold). Feeding dams a liquid diet with 6.5% ethanol from embryonic day 13 (e13) to e19 increased atRA in fetal hippocampus (up to 20-fold) and cortex (up to 50-fold), depending on blood alcohol content. One-month feeding of the 6.5% ethanol diet increased atRA in adult hippocampus (20-fold), cortex (2-fold), testis (2-fold), and serum (10-fold). Tissue-specific increases in retinoid dehydrogenase mRNAs and activities, extrahepatic retinol concentrations, and atRA catabolism combined to produce site-specific effects. Because a sustained increase in atRA has deleterious effects on the central nervous system and embryo development, these data suggest that superphysiological atRA contributes to ethanol pathological conditions, including cognitive dysfunction and fetal alcohol syndrome.-Kane, M. A., Folias, A. E., Wang, C., Napoli, J. L. Ethanol elevates physiological all-trans-retinoic acid levels in select loci through altering retinoid metabolism in multiple loci: a potential mechanism of ethanol toxicity.