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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Reduced levels of retinyl esters and vitamin A in human renal cancers.

Clinical and preclinical studies suggest that retinoids can inhibit the growth of a small percentage of human renal cancers (RCs), although the majority of RCs both in vitro and in vivo are retinoid resistant. Our recent studies indicate that the metabolism of retinol to retinyl esters is greatly reduced in human carcinoma cell lines of the oral cavity, skin, and breast as compared with their normal epithelial counterparts, suggesting that human carcinoma cells are retinoid deficient relative to normal epithelial cells. We considered whether retinoid resistance in RCs was related to an abnormality in retinoid metabolism. The metabolism of [3H]retinol and of [3H]retinoic acid (RA) was examined in RC cell lines and normal human kidney (NK) epithelial cells cultured in media, in RA, or in RA plus IFN-alpha. The expression of LRAT (lecithin:retinol acyltransferase) was assessed by Northern and Western analysis. Retinol and retinyl ester levels were determined in tissue samples of normal human kidney and renal cell carcinoma. NK cells esterified all of the 50 nM [3H]retinol in which they were cultured. In contrast, six of the seven RC cell lines metabolized only trace amounts of [3H]retinol to [3H]retinyl esters. Consistent with this relative lack of [3H]retinol esterification by the tumor cells, the tumor cells exhibited LRAT transcripts of aberrantly low sizes relative to those in normal epithelial cells. Moreover, the NK cells expressed abundant levels of LRAT protein by Western analysis, whereas the RC cells did not express LRAT protein. When samples of human kidney tumor tissue were compared with samples of normal kidney tissue from patients who had undergone surgery for primary RC, the normal kidney tissues contained much higher levels of retinol and retinyl esters (approximately 0.5-2 microg/gram wet weight) than the tumor tissues in all seven patients examined. Culture of the RC lines in IFN-alpha plus all-trans-RA, a combination therapy used clinically, resulted in higher intracellular levels of [3H]retinol and [3H]retinyl esters. The metabolism of [3H]RA was also examined in these RC lines versus NK cells. Although the NK epithelial cells metabolized [3H]RA, the majority of the RC lines metabolized [3H]RA at a much slower rate. Most of the RC lines metabolized only 10-30% of the 50 nM [3H]RA over 6 h of culture. These data indicate that RCs both in vitro and in vivo are retinol and retinyl ester deficient relative to the normal human kidney, and they suggest that the aberrant differentiation of the neoplastic renal cells results in part from a defect in retinoid metabolism.[1]


  1. Reduced levels of retinyl esters and vitamin A in human renal cancers. Guo, X., Nanus, D.M., Ruiz, A., Rando, R.R., Bok, D., Gudas, L.J. Cancer Res. (2001) [Pubmed]
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