All-trans-retinoyl β-glucuronide (RAG) was chemically synthesized in high yields (up to 79%) by a new procedure involving the reaction of the tetrabutylammonium salt of glucuronic acid with all-trans-retinoic acid (RA) via the imidazole or triazole derivative. When RAG was fed orally to vitamin A-deficient rats, RA was identified as the major metabolite in the serum within hours of administration of RAG. Very little or no RAG was detected in the serum. Thus RAG, which was not appreciably hydrolysed to RA in vitamin A-sufficient rats [Barua and Olson (1987) Biochem J. 263, 403–409], was rapidly converted into RA in vitamin A-deficient rats.
Present address: Institute for Neurobiology, ETH-Hoenggerberg, CH-8093 Zurich, Switzerland.