Vitamin A, endocrine tissues and hormones: interplay and interactions.
Vitamin A (retinol) is a micronutrient critical for cell proliferation and differentiation. In adults, vitamin A and metabolites such as retinoic acid (RA) play major roles in vision, immune and brain functions, and tissue remodelling and metabolism. This review presents the physiological interactions of retinoids and endocrine tissues and hormonal systems. Two endocrine systems have been particularly studied. In the pituitary, retinoids targets the corticotrophs with a possible therapeutic use in corticotropinomas. In the thyroid, retinoids interfere with iodine metabolism and vitamin A deficiency aggravates thyroid dysfunction caused by iodine-deficient diets. Retinoids use in thyroid cancer appears less promising than expected. Recent and still controversial studies investigated the relations between retinoids and metabolic syndrome. Indeed, retinoids contribute to pancreatic development and modify fat and glucose metabolism. However, more detailed studies are needed before planning any therapeutic use. Finally, retinoids probably play more minor roles in adrenal and gonads development and function apart from their major effects on spermatogenesis.