Cellular retinoic acid-binding protein(II) presence in rat uterine epithelial cells correlates with their synthesis of retinoic acid.


Vitamin A (retinol) and retinoic acid are necessary for the maintenance of the female reproductive system of higher animals. Our previous work has demonstrated cell specific expression of cellular retinoic acid-binding protein (CRABP) and cellular retinoic-acid binding protein(II) [CRABP(II)] in the uterus of the rat. CRABP(II) expression was shown to be induced in the uterine surface epithelial cells by treatment of prepubertal rats with pregnant mare serum gonadotropin (PMSG). Here we report that, after PMSG treatment, collected uteri had markedly higher levels of retinoic acid than did the uteri of prepubertal rats treated with the control vehicle. Smooth muscle, stromal, and epithelial cells were then cultured from uteri from such animals and provided with retinol or with the retinol/retinol-binding protein complex. Retinoic acid production, analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography, was observed for the epithelial cells from the uteri of prepubertal animals treated with PMSG, cells previously shown to express CRABP(II) and confirmed here to continue to express it in culture. Little or no retinoic acid was produced by cultured epithelial cells from the prepubertal uteri [shown previously to be negative for CRABP(II)] or by smooth muscle and stromal cells taken from uteri of prepubertal or PMSG-treated rats (shown previously to express CRABP). Retinoic acid production by uterine epithelial cells [and CRABP(II) expression] was also observed if the prepubertal rat was treated with estrogen before cell collection. At no time did cells expressing CRABP exhibit significant retinoic acid synthesis. Thus, this system revealed an important difference in retinoid metabolism between cells expressing CRABP and CRABP(II) and suggests CRABP(II) may participate in retinoic acid production and/or secretion.