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Open Access Open Badges Research article

All-trans retinoic acid attenuates airway inflammation by inhibiting Th2 and Th17 response in experimental allergic asthma

Jinhong Wu, Yanjie Zhang, Qi Liu, Wenwei Zhong and Zhenwei Xia*

Author Affiliations

Department of Pediatrics, Ruijin Hospital Affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Ruijin 2nd Road 197, Shanghai 200025, China

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BMC Immunology 2013, 14:28  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-14-28

Published: 22 June 2013



Airway inflammation is mainly mediated by T helper 2 cells (Th2) that characteristically produce interleukin (IL)-4, IL-5, and IL-13. Epidemiological studies have revealed an inverse association between the dietary intake of vitamin A and the occurrence of asthma. Serum vitamin A concentrations are significantly lower in asthmatic subjects than in healthy control subjects. It has been reported that all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), a potent derivative of vitamin A, regulates immune responses. However, its role in Th2-mediated airway inflammation remains unclear. We investigated the effects of ATRA in a mouse model of allergic airway inflammation.


We found that ATRA treatment attenuated airway inflammation and decreased mRNA levels of Th2- and Th17-related transcription factors. The data showed that airway inflammation coincided with levels of Th2- and Th17-related cytokines. We also showed that ATRA inhibited Th17 and promoted inducible regulatory T-cell differentiation, whereas it did not induce an obvious effect on Th2 differentiation in vitro. Our data suggest that ATRA may interfere with the in vivo Th2 responses via T-cell extrinsic mechanisms.


Administration of ATRA dramatically attenuated airway inflammation by inhibiting Th2 and Th17 differentiation and/or functions. ATRA may have potential therapeutic effects for airway inflammation in asthmatic patients.

Asthma; All-trans retinoic acid; Th2; Th17; Regulatory T cells