Vitamin A (retinol) is a prohormone that exerts its pleiotropic biological effects after conversion into multiple metabolites. In this report we describe the identification of three endogenous, retinolderived effector molecules, 14-hydroxy-retro-retinol (14-HRR), anhydroretinol (AR), and retinoic acid (RA) and a putative storage form of retinol, retinylesters (RE) in the human promyelocytic leukemia cell line HL-60. Exogenous application of the retinol metabolites in retinol-depleted serum-free cultures of HL-60 allowed the identification of unique cellular functions for each metabolite: 14-HRR is a growth factor for HL-60. AR is a functional antagonist of 14-HRR with growth-inhibiting activity, and RA is a potent inducer of granulocyte differentiation accompanied by growth arrest. Finally, intracellular RE serves as storage form allowing continuous production of 14-HRR when no external retinol is available.

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