, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 273-297

Background to work on retinoids and amphibian limb regeneration: Studies on anuran tadpoles—a retrospect

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Studies on the effects of exogenous vitamin A palminate on limb development and regeneration in anuran tadpoles carried out since late 1960s at the author’s laboratory are reviewed and discussed. Most significant was the initial discovery that vitamin A causes regeneration of complete or nearly complete limbs instead of only the missing distal part, thus altering the P-D pattern of regeneration—a phenomenon now called proximalization. Often more than one such regenerates develop per stump. Vitamin A produces proximalizing effect on regeneration cells during their dedifferentiation and blastema formation but inhibits regeneration if given once redifferentiation begins. Shank-level blastemas from treated tadpoles grafted into orbits of previously treated/untreated host tadpoles formed complete limbs. Proximalizing effect is proportionate to vitamin A concentration, duration of treatment, amputational level and stage of tadpoles. Vitamin A produces this effect also if given only prior to amputation. Its influence persists after cessation of treatment, declining with time. Proximalizing effect is correlated with natural ability in limbs to regenerate. Vitamin A improves regenerative ability and can induce it to some extent in non-regenerating limbs. Vitamin A excess retards limb development and produces stage dependent teratogenic defects. Further development of only that limb region is prevented in which differentiation is beginning when vitamin A is given. Short treatment of tadpoles beginning with limbs at spatula/paddle stage inhibited foot development in the unoperated limbs hut promoted regeneration of complete limbs from the contra-lateral amputated limbs. These dual effects were due to cells of the former differentiating and of the latter dedifferentiating when exposed to vitamin A palmitate.