While vitamin A has been implicated in host resistance to infectious disease, little is known about the role of vitamin A and its active metabolite, retinoic acid (RA) in host defenses against cancer. Here, we show that local RA production within the tumor microenvironment (TME) is increased up to 5-fold as compared with naïve surrounding tissue, with a commensurate increase in RA signaling to regionally infiltrating tumor-reactive T cells. Conditional disruption of RA signaling in CD8+ T cells using a dominant negative retinoic acid receptor α (dnRARα) established that RA signaling is required for tumor-specific CD8+ T-cell expansion/accumulation and protective antitumor immunity. In vivo analysis of antigen-specific CD8+ T-cell responses revealed that early T-cell expansion was RA-independent; however, late T-cell expansion and clonal accumulation was suppressed strongly in the absence of RA signaling. Our findings indicate that RA function is essential for the survival of tumor-reactive CD8+ T cells within the TME.
All-trans retinoic acid (atRA), an active derivative of vitamin A, regulates cell differentiation, proliferation and cardiac morphogenesis via transcriptional activation of retinoic acid receptors (RARs) acting on retinoic acid response elements (RARE).We hypothesized that the retinoic acid (RA) signalling pathway is activated in myocardial ischemia and postischemic remodelling.
Methods and Findings
Myocardial infarction was induced through ligating the left coronary artery in mice. In vivo cardiac activation of the RARs was measured by imaging RARE-luciferase reporter mice, and analysing expression of RAR target genes and proteins by real time RT-PCR and western blot. Endogenous retinoids in postinfarcted hearts were analysed by triple-stage liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry. Cardiomyocytes (CM) and cardiofibroblasts (CF) were isolated from infarcted and sham operated RARE luciferase reporter hearts and monitored for RAR activity and expression of target genes. The effect of atRA on CF proliferation was evaluated by EdU incorporation. Myocardial infarction increased thoracic RAR activity in vivo (p<0.001), which was ascribed to the heart through ex vivo imaging (p = 0.002) with the largest signal 1 week postinfarct. This was accompanied by increased cardiac gene and protein expression of the RAR target genes retinol binding protein 1 (p = 0.01 for RNA, p = 0,006 for protein) and aldehyde dehydrogenase 1A2 (p = 0.04 for RNA, p = 0,014 for protein), while gene expression of cytochrome P450 26B1 was downregulated (p = 0.007). Concomitantly, retinol accumulated in the infarcted zone (p = 0.02). CM and CF isolated from infarcted hearts had higher luminescence than those from sham operated hearts (p = 0.02 and p = 0.008). AtRA inhibited CF proliferation in vitro (p = 0.02).
The RA signalling pathway is activated in postischemic hearts and may play a role in regulation of damage and repair during remodelling.
We previously observed that a radiotherapy-induced biochemical response in plasma was associated with favourable outcome in head and neck squamous carcinoma cancer (HNSCC) patients. The aim of the present study was to compare stress associated blood cell gene expression between two sub-groups of HNSCC patients with different biochemical responses to radiotherapy.
Out of 87 patients (histologically verified), 10 biochemical ‘responders’ having a high relative increase in plasma oxidative damage and a concomitant decrease in plasma antioxidants during radiotherapy and 10 ‘poor-responders’ were selected for gene-expression analysis and compared using gene set enrichment analysis.
There was a significant induction of stress-relevant gene-sets in the responders following radiotherapy compared to the poor-responders. The relevance of the involvement of similar stress associated gene expression for HNSCC cancer and radioresistance was verified using two publicly available data sets of 42 HNSCC cases and 14 controls (GEO GSE6791), and radiation resistant and radiation sensitive HNSCC xenografts (E-GEOD-9716).
Radiotherapy induces a systemic stress response, as revealed by induction of stress relevant gene expression in blood cells, which is associated to favourable outcome in a cohort of 87 HNSCC patients. Whether these changes in gene expression reflects a systemic effect or are biomarkers of the tumour micro-environmental status needs further study.
Raw data are available at ArrayExpress under accession number E-MEXP-2460.
Radiotherapy; HNSCC; Antioxidants; Microarray; GSEA; Cancer
Gut-associated dendritic cells (DC) synthesize all-trans retinoic acid (RA), which is required for inducing gut-tropic lymphocytes. Gut-associated DC from MyD88-/- mice, which lack most TLR signals, expressed low levels of retinal dehydrogenases (Raldh, critical enzymes for RA biosynthesis) and were significantly impaired in their capacity to induce gut-homing T cells. Pre-treatment of extra-intestinal DC with a TLR1/2 agonist was sufficient to induce Raldh and to confer these DC with the capacity to induce gut-homing lymphocytes via a mechanism dependent on MyD88 and JNK/MAPK. Moreover, gut-associated DC from TLR2-/- mice or from mice in which JNK was pharmacologically blocked were impaired in their education to imprint gut-homing T cells, which correlated with a decreased induction of gut-tropic T cells in TLR2-/- mice upon immunization. Thus, MyD88-dependent TLR2 signals are necessary and sufficient to educate DC with gut-specific imprinting properties and contribute in vivo to the generation of gut-tropic T cells.
BACKGROUND & AIMS
Gut-associated dendritic cells (DC) metabolize vitamin A into all-trans retinoic acid (RA), which is required to induce lymphocytes to localize to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and promotes the differentiation of Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (TREG) and immunoglobulin (Ig)A antibody-secreting cells (IgA-ASC). We investigated whether RA functions in a positive-feedback loop, via DC, to induce its own synthesis.
We measured levels of retinoids in intestine tissues from mice and assessed the role of RA in activities of gut-associated DC in cell cultures and mice. We used pharmacologic antagonists to determine the signaling pathways involved in regulation of DC and used MyD88−/− mice to determine the contribution of Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling in RA-mediated activities of DC.
The concentration of retinoids decreased in a proximal-to-distal gradient along the intestine, which correlated with the activity of gut-specific DC. Importantly, RA regulated the ability of gut-associated DC to produce RA, induce T cells to localize to the GI tract, and generate TREG and IgA secreting cells. RA was sufficient to induce its own production by extra-intestinal DC, in vitro and in vivo. RA-mediated regulation of DC required signaling through the mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway and unexpectedly required MyD88, which has been associated with TLR, interleukin (IL)-1, and IL-18 signaling.
RA is necessary and sufficient to induce DC to regulate T-cell localization to the GI tract and IgA secretion. These findings indicate crosstalk between the RA receptor and MyD88-dependent TLR signaling pathways.
Inflammation; IBD; immune response; mouse model
Immune cell activation induces concurrent temporal and spatial retinoic acid signaling, and CD4+ T cell–specific loss of RA signals reduces effector function, migration, and polarity.
It is known that vitamin A and its metabolite, retinoic acid (RA), are essential for host defense. However, the mechanisms for how RA controls inflammation are incompletely understood. The findings presented in this study show that RA signaling occurs concurrent with the development of inflammation. In models of vaccination and allogeneic graft rejection, whole body imaging reveals that RA signaling is temporally and spatially restricted to the site of inflammation. Conditional ablation of RA signaling in T cells significantly interferes with CD4+ T cell effector function, migration, and polarity. These findings provide a new perspective of the role of RA as a mediator directly controlling CD4+ T cell differentiation and immunity.
Multiple myeloma is an incurable disease requiring the development of effective therapies which can be used clinically. We have elucidated the potential for manipulating the cAMP signaling pathway as a target for inhibiting the growth of multiple myeloma cells.
As a model system, we primarily used the murine multiple myeloma cell line MOPC315 which can be grown both in vivo and in vitro. Human multiple myeloma cell lines U266, INA-6 and the B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia cell line Reh were used only for in vitro studies. Cell death was assessed by flow cytometry and western blot analysis after treatment with cAMP elevating agents (forskolin, prostaglandin E2 and rolipram) and cAMP analogs. We followed tumor growth in vivo after forskolin treatment by imaging DsRed-labelled MOPC315 cells transplanted subcutaneously in BALB/c nude mice.
In contrast to the effect on Reh cells, 50 μM forskolin more than tripled the death of MOPC315 cells after 24 h in vitro. Forskolin induced cell death to a similar extent in the human myeloma cell lines U266 and INA-6. cAMP-mediated cell death had all the typical hallmarks of apoptosis, including changes in the mitochondrial membrane potential and cleavage of caspase 3, caspase 9 and PARP. Forskolin also inhibited the growth of multiple myeloma cells in a mouse model in vivo.
Elevation of intracellular levels of cAMP kills multiple myeloma cells in vitro and inhibits development of multiple myeloma in vivo. This strongly suggests that compounds activating the cAMP signaling pathway may be useful in the field of multiple myeloma.
There is convincing evidence that replacing dietary saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) decreases risk of cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, PUFA rich foods such as vegetable oils, fatty fish, and marine omega-3 supplements are recommended. However, PUFA are easily oxidizable and there is concern about possible negative health effects from intake of oxidized lipids. Little is known about the degree of lipid oxidation in such products.
To assess the content of lipid oxidation products in a large selection of vegetable oils and marine omega-3 supplements available in Norway. Both fresh and heated vegetable oils were studied.
A large selection of commercially available vegetable oils and marine omega-3 supplements was purchased from grocery stores, pharmacies, and health food stores in Norway. The content of lipid oxidation products were measured as peroxide value and alkenal concentration. Twelve different vegetable oils were heated for a temperature (225°C) and time (25 minutes) resembling conditions typically used during cooking.
The peroxide values were in the range 1.04–10.38 meq/kg for omega-3 supplements and in the range 0.60–5.33 meq/kg for fresh vegetable oils. The concentration range of alkenals was 158.23–932.19 nmol/mL for omega-3 supplements and 33.24–119.04 nmol/mL for vegetable oils. After heating, a 2.9–11.2 fold increase in alkenal concentration was observed for vegetable oils.
The contents of hydroperoxides and alkenals in omega-3 supplements are higher than in vegetable oils. After heating vegetable oils, a large increase in alkenal concentration was observed.
lipid oxidation; commercially available; vegetable oils; marine omega-3 supplements; screening; peroxide value; alkenal concentration
The health positive effects of diets high in fruits and vegetables are generally not replicated in supplementation trials with isolated antioxidants and vitamins, and as a consequence the emphasis of chronic disease prevention has shifted to whole foods and whole food products.
We carried out a human intervention trial with the golden kiwifruit, Actinidia chinensis, measuring markers of antioxidant status, DNA stability, plasma lipids, and platelet aggregation. Our hypothesis was that supplementation of a normal diet with kiwifruits would have an effect on biomarkers of oxidative status. Healthy volunteers supplemented a normal diet with either one or two golden kiwifruits per day in a cross-over study lasting 2 × 4 weeks. Plasma levels of vitamin C, and carotenoids, and the ferric reducing activity of plasma (FRAP) were measured. Malondialdehyde was assessed as a biomarker of lipid oxidation. Effects on DNA damage in circulating lymphocytes were estimated using the comet assay with enzyme modification to measure specific lesions; another modification allowed estimation of DNA repair.
Plasma vitamin C increased after supplementation as did resistance towards H2O2-induced DNA damage. Purine oxidation in lymphocyte DNA decreased significantly after one kiwifruit per day, pyrimidine oxidation decreased after two fruits per day. Neither DNA base excision nor nucleotide excision repair was influenced by kiwifruit consumption. Malondialdehyde was not affected, but plasma triglycerides decreased. Whole blood platelet aggregation was decreased by kiwifruit supplementation.
Golden kiwifruit consumption strengthens resistance towards endogenous oxidative damage.
Worldwide, herbs and spices are much used food flavourings. However, little data exist regarding actual dietary intake of culinary herbs and spices. We developed a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) for the assessment of habitual diet the preceding year, with focus on phytochemical rich food, including herbs and spices. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the intakes of herbs and spices from the FFQ with estimates of intake from another dietary assessment method. Thus we compared the intake estimates from the FFQ with 28 days of estimated records of herb and spice consumption as a reference method.
The evaluation study was conducted among 146 free living adults, who filled in the FFQ and 2-4 weeks later carried out 28 days recording of herb and spice consumption. The FFQ included a section with questions about 27 individual culinary herbs and spices, while the records were open ended records for recording of herbs and spice consumption exclusively.
Our study showed that the FFQ obtained slightly higher estimates of total intake of herbs and spices than the total intake assessed by the Herbs and Spice Records (HSR). The correlation between the two assessment methods with regard to total intake was good (r = 0.5), and the cross-classification suggests that the FFQ may be used to classify subjects according to total herb and spice intake. For the 8 most frequently consumed individual herbs and spices, the FFQ obtained good estimates of median frequency of intake for 2 herbs/spices, while good estimates of portion sizes were obtained for 4 out of 8 herbs/spices.
Our results suggested that the FFQ was able to give good estimates of frequency of intake and portion sizes on group level for several of the most frequently used herbs and spices. The FFQ was only able to fairly rank subjects according to frequency of intake of the 8 most frequently consumed herbs and spices. Other studies are warranted to further explore the intakes of culinary spices and herbs.
Plant-based diets rich in fruit and vegetables can prevent development of several chronic age-related diseases. However, the mechanisms behind this protective effect are not elucidated. We have tested the hypothesis that intake of antioxidant-rich foods can affect groups of genes associated with cellular stress defence in human blood cells. Trial registration number: NCT00520819 http://clinicaltrials.gov.
In an 8-week dietary intervention study, 102 healthy male smokers were randomised to either a diet rich in various antioxidant-rich foods, a kiwifruit diet (three kiwifruits/d added to the regular diet) or a control group. Blood cell gene expression profiles were obtained from 10 randomly selected individuals of each group. Diet-induced changes on gene expression were compared to controls using a novel application of the gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) on transcription profiles obtained using Affymetrix HG-U133-Plus 2.0 whole genome arrays.
Changes were observed in the blood cell gene expression profiles in both intervention groups when compared to the control group. Groups of genes involved in regulation of cellular stress defence, such as DNA repair, apoptosis and hypoxia, were significantly upregulated (GSEA, FDR q-values < 5%) by both diets compared to the control group. Genes with common regulatory motifs for aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) and AhR nuclear translocator (AhR/ARNT) were upregulated by both interventions (FDR q-values < 5%). Plasma antioxidant biomarkers (polyphenols/carotenoids) increased in both groups.
The observed changes in the blood cell gene expression profiles suggest that the beneficial effects of a plant-based diet on human health may be mediated through optimization of defence processes.
We have developed a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) for the assessment of habitual diet, with special focus on the intake of fruit, vegetables and other antioxidant-rich foods and beverages. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the relative validity of the intakes of energy, food and nutrients from the FFQ.
Energy intake was evaluated against independent measures of energy expenditure using the ActiReg® system (motion detection), whereas 7-days weighed food records were used to study the relative validity of food and nutrient intake. The relationship between methods was investigated using correlation analyses and cross-classification of participants. The visual agreement between the methods was evaluated using Bland-Altman plots.
We observed that the FFQ underestimated the energy intake by approximately 11% compared to the energy expenditure measured by the ActiReg®. The correlation coefficient between energy intake and energy expenditure was 0.54 and 32% of the participants were defined as under-reporters. Compared to the weighed food records the percentages of energy from fat and added sugar from the FFQ were underestimated, whereas the percentage of energy from total carbohydrates and protein were slightly overestimated. The intake of foods rich in antioxidants did not vary significantly between the FFQ and weighed food records, with the exceptions of berries, coffee, tea and vegetables which were overestimated. Spearman's Rank Order Correlations between FFQ and weighed food records were 0.41 for berries, 0.58 for chocolate, 0.78 for coffee, 0.61 for fruit, 0.57 for fruit and berry juices, 0.40 for nuts, 0.74 for tea, 0.38 for vegetables and 0.70 for the intake of wine.
Our new FFQ provides a good estimate of the average energy intake and it obtains valid data on average intake of most antioxidant-rich foods and beverages. Our study also showed that the FFQs ability to rank participants according to intake of total antioxidants and most of the antioxidant-rich foods was good.
Location of embryonic lymph node development is determined by the initial clustering of lymphoid tissue inducer cells. We demonstrate that both CXCL13 and CCL21 attracted E12.5–E14.5 lymphoid tissue inducer cells and that initial clustering exclusively depended on CXCL13. Retinoic acid induced early CXCL13 expression in stromal organizer cells independent of lymphotoxin signaling. Notably, neurons adjacent to the lymph node anlagen expressed enzymes essential for retinoic acid synthesis. Furthermore, stimulation of parasymphathetic neural output in adults led to a retinoic acid receptor-dependent induction of CXCL13 in the gut. Therefore, our data show that initiation of lymph node development is controlled by retinoic acid-mediated expression of CXCL13 and suggest that retinoic acid may be provided by adjacent neurons.
A plant-based diet protects against chronic oxidative stress-related diseases. Dietary plants contain variable chemical families and amounts of antioxidants. It has been hypothesized that plant antioxidants may contribute to the beneficial health effects of dietary plants. Our objective was to develop a comprehensive food database consisting of the total antioxidant content of typical foods as well as other dietary items such as traditional medicine plants, herbs and spices and dietary supplements. This database is intended for use in a wide range of nutritional research, from in vitro and cell and animal studies, to clinical trials and nutritional epidemiological studies.
We procured samples from countries worldwide and assayed the samples for their total antioxidant content using a modified version of the FRAP assay. Results and sample information (such as country of origin, product and/or brand name) were registered for each individual food sample and constitute the Antioxidant Food Table.
The results demonstrate that there are several thousand-fold differences in antioxidant content of foods. Spices, herbs and supplements include the most antioxidant rich products in our study, some exceptionally high. Berries, fruits, nuts, chocolate, vegetables and products thereof constitute common foods and beverages with high antioxidant values.
This database is to our best knowledge the most comprehensive Antioxidant Food Database published and it shows that plant-based foods introduce significantly more antioxidants into human diet than non-plant foods. Because of the large variations observed between otherwise comparable food samples the study emphasizes the importance of using a comprehensive database combined with a detailed system for food registration in clinical and epidemiological studies. The present antioxidant database is therefore an essential research tool to further elucidate the potential health effects of phytochemical antioxidants in diet.
The purpose of this study was to compare plasma levels of antioxidants and oxidative stress biomarkers in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) patients with healthy controls. Furthermore, the effect of radiotherapy on these biomarkers and their association with survival in HNSCC patients were investigated.
Seventy-eight HNSCC patients and 100 healthy controls were included in this study. Follow-up samples at the end of radiotherapy were obtained in 60 patients. Fifteen antioxidant biomarkers (6 carotenoids, 4 tocopherols, ascorbic acid, total antioxidant capacity, glutathione redox potential, total glutathione and total cysteine) and four oxidative stress biomarkers (total hydroperoxides, γ-glutamyl transpeptidase, 8-isoprostagladin F2α and ratio of oxidized/total ascorbic acid) were measured in plasma samples. Analysis of Covariance was used to compare biomarkers between patients and healthy controls. Kaplan-Meier plots and Cox' proportional hazards models were used to study survival among patients.
Dietary antioxidants (carotenoids, tocopherols and ascorbic acid), ferric reducing antioxidant power (FRAP) and modified FRAP were lower in HNSCC patients compared to controls and dietary antioxidants decreased during radiotherapy. Total hydroperoxides (d-ROMs), a marker for oxidative stress, were higher in HNSCC patients compared to controls and increased during radiotherapy. Among the biomarkers analyzed, high levels of plasma carotenoids before radiotherapy are associated with a prolonged progression-free survival (hazard rate ratio: 0.42, 95% CI: 0.20-0.91, p = 0.03). Additionally, high relative increase in plasma levels of d-ROMs (hazard rate ratio: 0.31, 95% CI: 0.13-0.76, p = 0.01) and high relative decrease in FRAP (hazard rate ratio: 0.42, 95% CI: 0.17-0.998, p = 0.05) during radiotherapy are also positively associated with survival.
Biomarkers of antioxidants and oxidative stress are unfavourable in HNSCC patients compared to healthy controls, and radiotherapy affects many of these biomarkers. Increasing levels of antioxidant biomarkers before radiotherapy and increasing oxidative stress during radiotherapy may improve survival indicating that different factors/mechanisms may be important for survival before and during radiotherapy in HNSCC patients. Thus, the therapeutic potential of optimizing antioxidant status and oxidative stress should be explored further in these patients.
Cytochrome P450 oxidoreductase (POR) is the obligate electron donor for all microsomal cytochrome P450 enzymes, which catalyze the metabolism of a wide spectrum of xenobiotic and endobiotic compounds. Point mutations in POR have been found recently in patients with Antley-Bixler-like syndrome, which includes limb skeletal defects. In order to study P450 function during limb and skeletal development, we deleted POR specifically in mouse limb bud mesenchyme. Forelimbs and hind limbs in conditional knockout (CKO) mice were short with thin skeletal elements and fused joints. POR deletion occurred earlier in forelimbs than in hind limbs, leading additionally to soft tissue syndactyly and loss of wrist elements and phalanges due to changes in growth, cell death, and skeletal segmentation. Transcriptional analysis of E12.5 mouse forelimb buds demonstrated the expression of P450s involved in retinoic acid, cholesterol, and arachidonic acid metabolism. Biochemical analysis of CKO limbs confirmed retinoic acid excess. In CKO limbs, expression of genes throughout the whole cholesterol biosynthetic pathway was upregulated, and cholesterol deficiency can explain most aspects of the phenotype. Thus, cellular POR-dependent cholesterol synthesis is essential during limb and skeletal development. Modulation of P450 activity could contribute to susceptibility of the embryo and developing organs to teratogenesis.
The nuclear factor (NF)-κB is a primary regulator of inflammatory responses and may be linked to pathology associated with obesity. We investigated the progression of NF-κB activity during a 12-week feeding period on a high-fat diet (HFD) or a low-fat diet (LFD) using NF-κB luciferase reporter mice. In vivo imaging of luciferase activity showed that NF-κB activity was higher in the HFD mice compared with LFD-fed mice. Thorax region of HFD females displayed fourfold higher activity compared with LFD females, while no such increase was evident in males. In male HFD mice, abdominal NF-κB activity was increased twofold compared with the LFD males, while females had unchanged NF-κB activity in the abdomen by HFD. HFD males, but not females, exhibited evident glucose intolerance during the study. In conclusion, HFD increased NF-κB activity in both female and male mice. However, HFD differentially increased activity in males and females. The moderate increase in abdomen of male mice may be linked to glucose intolerance.
High-fat diet; Luciferase; Inflammation; Glucose intolerance; Molecular imaging
Beginning in the late 1980s, Eric Davidson's group at Cal Tech developed a modularity hypothesis of developmental gene regulation, showing that in an expanding number of cases, particular aspects of development were governed by compact ‘modules’ of transcription factor binding sites (TFBSs), and that these modules were separable, complex and interconnected. Davidson made no attempt to further generalize the hypothesis, but others took up the idea, transported it out of development and extended it to a general rule of clustering. Despite such misbegotten origins, the ‘extended’ modularity hypothesis—that TFBSs in general tend to come in compact clusters—has been highly productive, yet it has never been challenged with a large, diverse and unbiased dataset to see how universal it actually is. The aim of the present paper is to do so. Applying human–mouse–rat phylogenetic footprinting to neighbourhoods of a diverse set of TFBSs, including both developmental and non-developmental signals, we find that the extended hypothesis holds in at least 93.5% of cases. Based on this particular sample, we found a mean module length of 609 nucleotides containing, on an average, 24.5 presumptive regulatory signals of length greater than 5 and averaging 8.5 nucleotides each.
regulatory modules; gene expression regulation; transcription factors
We examined the liver of adult polar bears, arctic foxes, and rats by gold chloride staining, fluorescence microscopy for the detection of autofluorescence of vitamin A, hematoxylin-eosin staining, staining with Masson's trichrome, Ishii and Ishii's silver impregnation, and transmission electron microscopical morphometry. The liver lobules of the arctic animals showed a zonal gradient in the storage of vitamin A. The density (i.e., cell number per area) of hepatic stellate cells was essentially the same among the zones. These results indicate that the hepatic stellate cells of the polar bears and arctic foxes possess heterogeneity of vitamin A-storing capacity in their liver lobules.
The cytochrome P450-dependent monooxygenase system catalyzes the metabolism of xenobiotics and endogenous compounds, including hormones and retinoic acid. In order to establish the role of these enzymes in embryogenesis, we have inactivated the system through the deletion of the gene for the electron donor to all microsomal P450 proteins, cytochrome P450 reductase (Cpr). Mouse embryos homozygous for this deletion died in early to middle gestation (∼9.5 days postcoitum [dpc]) and exhibited a number of novel phenotypes, including the severe inhibition of vasculogenesis and hematopoiesis. In addition, defects in the brain, limbs, and cell types where CPR was shown to be expressed were observed. Some of the observed abnormalities have been associated with perturbations in retinoic acid homeostasis in later embryogenesis. Consistent with this possibility, embryos at 9.5 dpc had significantly elevated levels of retinoic acid and reduced levels of retinol. Further, some of the observed phenotypes could be either reversed or exacerbated by decreasing or increasing maternal retinoic acid exposure, respectively. Detailed analysis demonstrated a close relationship between the observed phenotype and the expression of genes controlling vasculogenesis. These data demonstrate that the cytochrome P450 system plays a key role in early embryonic development; this process appears to be, at least in part, controlled by regional concentrations of retinoic acid and has profound effects on blood vessel formation.