The effect of vitamin a (retinoids) on pattern formation implies a uniformity of developmental mechanisms throughout the animal kingdom

Acta Biotheoretica 41 (4) (1993)
Retinoids are low molecular weight, lipophilic derivatives of vitamin A which have a profound effect upon the development of a diverse array of animals. Here, I review these effects on Invertebrates: a colonial hydroid, a colonial ascidian, and Vertebrates: the regenerating amphibian limb, the developing chick limb bud, the regenerating amphibian tail, the anteroposterior axis of the early embryo, the developing chick embryo skin. There is a striking uniformity of effect of retinoids on pattern formation when applied to these diverse organisms. The majority react by being posteriorized in their development, although additional effects can also be seen. Several hypotheses which can explain these results are discussed along with the deduction that they lead to: retinoids may be components of a universal developmental mechanism or they may simply act in a similar way to alter a universal developmental mechanism. In either case the experimental analysis of retinoid effects on development has important implications for the evolution of developmental mechanisms.
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