Retinoic acid (RA) signaling is involved in various physiological and pathological conditions, including development, tumorigenesis, inflammation, and tissue damage and repair. In kidneys, the beneficial effect of RA has been reported in multiple disease models, such as glomerulosclerosis, renal fibrosis, and acute kidney injury. In this issue of the JCI, Chen et al. report a pathway activated by RA signaling that is mediated by the retinoic acid receptor responder protein 1 (RARRES1). Specifically, RARRES1, which is proteolytically cleaved to release the extracellular domain, was endocytosed by podocytes to induce apoptosis and glomerular dysfunction kidney disease. These findings unveil the contrasting aspects, a Janus face, of RA signaling that may guide its therapeutic use.
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