Biochimica et biophysica acta

Maternal-fetal transfer and metabolism of vitamin A and its precursor β-carotene in the developing tissues.

PMID 21621637


The requirement of the developing mammalian embryo for retinoic acid is well established. Retinoic acid, the active form of vitamin A, can be generated from retinol and retinyl ester obtained from food of animal origin, and from carotenoids, mainly β-carotene, from vegetables and fruits. The mammalian embryo relies on retinol, retinyl ester and β-carotene circulating in the maternal bloodstream for its supply of vitamin A. The maternal-fetal transfer of retinoids and carotenoids, as well as the metabolism of these compounds in the developing tissues are still poorly understood. The existing knowledge in this field has been summarized in this review in reference to our basic understanding of the transport and metabolism of retinoids and carotenoids in adult tissues. The need for future research on the metabolism of these essential lipophilic nutrients during development is highlighted. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Retinoid and Lipid Metabolism.