Considerations for in vitro retinoid experiments: Importance of protein interaction

Ingeborg Klaassen, Ruud H. Brakenhoff, Serge J. Smeets, Gordon B. Snow, Boudewijn J.M. Braakhuis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Retinoids, natural and synthetic substances structurally related to vitamin A, are important modulators of cell proliferation and differentiation, and have proven activity in cancer therapy. Experiments to reveal the mechanism of action of retinoids are routinely performed in in vitro models. As retinoids are relatively hydrophobic and unstable, we hypothesized that the composition of culture media is of critical importance for the stability and bioavailability of these compounds. Various culture media were incubated with all-trans-, 13-cis- and 9-cis-retinoic acid (RA). Without fetal calf serum (FCS) or bovine serum albumin (BSA) in the medium, the concentration of these retinoids was found to decrease to considerably low levels. This excessive loss of retinoids was due to absorption to culture plates, reaction tubes and pipet tips. Binding of retinoids to BSA was demonstrated to have attenuating effects on uptake and metabolism of all-trans-RA, as studied in oral keratinocytes and head and neck cancer cells, indicating that a balance exists between the bioavailability and the aspecific loss of retinoids. In this study we demonstrate that the type of culture medium and especially the presence of protein in the medium is of paramount importance to perform reproducible experiments with retinoids. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-275
Number of pages11
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - General Subjects
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 1999

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