The vitamin A metabolite, all-trans retinoic acid (atRA), is required for embryonic development. atRA binds to the nuclear retinoic acid receptors and regulates the transcription of specific target genes. In order to identify atRA-induced genes that play a role in neural development, a subtractive library was created from SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells, a human cell line that exhibits changes in cell adhesion and neurite outgrowth after exposure to the vitamin A acid. We report here the identification of 14 genes that are rapidly induced by atRA (retinoic acid induced in neuroblastoma or RAINB), eight of which were previously not known to be atRA responsive (BTBD11, calmin, cyclin M2, ephrin B2, HOXD10, NEDD9, RAINB6 and tenascin R). mRNA regulation by atRA was confirmed in SH-SY5Y cells by Northern blotting, and gene regulation was studied in additional human cell lines using the quantitative polymerase chain reaction. The majority of the atRA-responsive clones revealed in this screen are highly expressed in the nervous system of developing rat embryos. Further, the expression of several of these genes is perturbed in developing rat embryos exposed to excess atRA or conversely, deprived of sufficient retinoid during early development. We propose that a subset of these genes lie downstream of atRA and its receptors in the regulation of neurite outgrowth and cell adhesion in both neural and non-neural tissues within the developing embryo.