Vitamin A (retinol) is ingested as either retinyl esters or carotenoids and metabolized to active compounds, such as 11-cis-retinal, which is important for vision, and all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA), which is the primary mediator of biological actions of vitamin A. ATRA binds to retinoic acid receptors (RARs), which heterodimerize with retinoid X receptors (RXRs). RAR-RXR heterodimers function as transcription factors, binding RAR responsive elements in promoters of different genes. Numerous cellular functions, including bone cell functions, are mediated by vitamin A; however, it has long been recognized that increased levels of vitamin A can have deleterious effects on bone resulting in increased skeletal fragility. Bone mass is dependent on the balance between bone resorption and bone formation. A decrease in bone mass may be caused by either an excess of resorption or decreased bone formation. Early studies indicated that the primary skeletal effect of vitamin A was to increase bone resorption, but later studies have shown that vitamin A can not only stimulate the formation of bone resorbing osteoclasts, but inhibit their formation as well. Effects of vitamin A on bone formation have not been studied in as great a detail and are not as well characterized as effects on bone resorption. Several epidemiological studies have shown an association between vitamin A, decreased bone mass, and osteoporotic fractures, but the data are not conclusive, for other studies have found no associations, and some studies have suggested that vitamin A primarily promotes skeletal health. In this presentation, we have summarized how vitamin A is absorbed, metabolized, and functions intracellularly. Vitamin A deficiency and excess are introduced, and detailed descriptions of clinical and pre-clinical studies of the effects of vitamin A on the skeleton are presented.
The Endocrine Society , 2013. Vol. 34, no 6, 766-797 p.