The molecular mechanism of retinoic acid action: Regulation of tissue transglutaminase gene expression

Ennio Antonio Chiocca, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Retinoic acid is a small lipophilic molecule that exerts profound effects on the growth and differentiation of both normal and transformed cells. It is also a natural morphogen that is critical in the development of embryonic structures. The molecular effects of retinoic acid involve alterations in the expression of several proteins and these changes are presumably mediated in part by alterations in gene expression. For instance, retinoic acid causes a rapid induction of tissue transglutaminase, an enzyme involved in protein cross-linking. The molecular mechanisms responsible for the effects of retinoic acid on gene expression have not been characterized. To approach this question, I have isolated and characterized tissue transglutaminase of cDNA clones. The deduced amino acid sequences of tissue transglutaminase and of factor XIIIa showed a relatively high degree of homology in their putative calcium binding domains. To explore the mechanism of induction of this enzyme, both primary (macrophages) and cultured cells (Swiss 3T3-C2 and CHO fibroblasts) were used. I found that retinoic acid is a general inducer of tissue transglutaminase mRNA in these cells. In murine peritoneal macrophages retinoic acid causes a rapid accumulation of this mRNA and this effect is independent of concurrent protein synthesis. The retinoic acid effect is not mediated by a post-transcriptional increase in the stability of the tissue transglutaminase mRNA, but appears to involve an increase in the transcription rate of the tissue transglutaminase gene. This provides the first example of regulation by retinoic acid of a specific gene, supporting the hypothesis that these molecules act by directly regulating the transcriptional activity of specific genes. A molecular model for the effects of retinoic acid on the expression of genes linked to cellular proliferation and differentiation is proposed.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Surgery|Pharmacology

Recommended Citation

Chiocca, Ennio Antonio, "The molecular mechanism of retinoic acid action: Regulation of tissue transglutaminase gene expression" (1988). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI8912965.