Retinoic acid maintains function of neural crest–derived ocular and craniofacial structures in adult zebrafish

Bahaar Chawla, William Swain, Antionette L. Williams, Brenda L. Bohnsack*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. Retinoic acid (RA) is required for embryonic formation of the anterior segment of the eye and craniofacial structures. The present study further investigated the role of RA in maintaining the function of these neural crest–derived structures in adult zebrafish. METHODS. Morphology and histology were analyzed by using live imaging, methylacrylate sections, and TUNEL assay. Functional analysis of vision and aqueous humor outflow were assayed with real-time imaging. RESULTS. Both decreased and increased RA signaling altered craniofacial and ocular structures in adult zebrafish. Exogenous treatment with all-trans RA for 5 days resulted in a prognathic jaw, while inhibition of endogenous RA synthesis through treatment with 4-diethylamino-benzaldehyde (DEAB) decreased head height. In adult eyes, RA activity was localized to the retinal pigment epithelium, photoreceptors, outer plexiform layer, inner plexiform layer, iris stroma, and ventral canalicular network. Exogenous RA increased apoptosis in the iris stroma and canalicular network in the ventral iridocorneal angle, resulting in the loss of these structures and decreased aqueous outflow. DEAB, which decreased RA activity throughout the eye, induced widespread apoptosis, resulting in corneal edema, cataracts, retinal atrophy, and loss of iridocorneal angle structures. DEAB-treated fish were blind with no optokinetic response and no aqueous outflow from the anterior chamber. CONCLUSIONS. Tight control of RA levels is required for normal structure and function of the adult anterior segment. These studies demonstrated that RA plays an important role in maintaining ocular and craniofacial structures in adult zebrafish.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1924-1935
Number of pages12
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Aqueous humor outflow
  • Neural crest
  • Retinoic acid
  • Vitamin A
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Ophthalmology


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