The requirement of vitamin A (retinoids) for vision has been recognized for decades. In addition, vitamin A is involved in fetal development and in the regulation of proliferation and differentiation of cells throughout life. This fat-soluble organic compound cannot be synthesized endogenously by humans and thus is an essential nutrient; a well-regulated transport and storage system provides tissues with the correct amounts of retinoids in spite of normal fluctuations in daily vitamin A intake. An overview is presented here of current knowledge and hypotheses about the absorption, transport, storage, and metabolism of vitamin A. Some information is also presented about a group of ligand-dependent transcription factors, the retinoic acid receptors, that apparently mediate many of the extravisual effects of retinoids.
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