Binding of retinoic acid (RA) to specific RA receptors alpha and beta (RAR alpha and RAR beta) was studied. Receptors were obtained in two ways: (1) full-length receptors were produced by transient expression of the respective human cDNAs in COS 1 cells; and (2) the ligand-binding domains of RAR alpha and RAR beta were produced in Escherichia coli. RA binding to the wild-type and truncated forms of the receptor was identical for both RAR alpha and RAR beta, indicating that the ligand-binding domains have retained the binding characteristics of the intact receptors. Furthermore, RA bound with the same affinity to both RAR alpha and RAR beta. Only retinoid analogues with an acidic end-group were able to actively bind to both receptors. On measuring the binding of various retinoids, we have found that the properties of the ligand-binding sites of RAR alpha and RAR beta were rather similar. Two retinoid analogues were capable of binding preferentially to either RAR alpha or RAR beta, suggesting that it may be possible to synthesize specific ligands for RAR alpha and RAR beta.

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