Earl Harrison

Headshot of Earl Harrison

Faculty Emeritus, Department of Human Sciences

Program Area: Human Nutrition

(614) 292-8189

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As a Dean's Distinguished Professor of Nutrition, Earl Harrison's research interests cover proteins and enzymes involved in the transport, metabolism, and function of dietary retinoids (vitamin A) and carotenoids.


  • USPHS Postdoctoral Fellow, The Rockefeller University, 1979-1981
  • PhD, Nutritional Biochemistry, Columbia University, 1978
  • MNS, Nutrition, Cornell University, 1973
  • AB, Chemistry, Cornell University, 1971

Research Interests

  • Biochemistry
    • Carotenoid chemistry and metabolism
    • Enzymology
    • Lipid chemistry
    • Lipid metabolism
    • Nuclear receptors
    • Retinoid metabolism and mechanism of action
  • Endocrinology
  • Human Nutrition
    • Biofortification of crops
    • Intestinal absorption of fat-soluble nutrients
    • Vitamin A deficiency
    • Vitamin metabolism

Research Summary

  • The basic mechanisms involved in the intestinal absorption, transport, and metabolism of dietary vitamin A and carotenoids using cell culture and animal models and investigations in human subjects
  • Define the proteins involved in the uptake and metabolism of dietary carotenoids in the intestine
    • Demonstrated the facilitated uptake of carotenoids in CaCo2 cells in culture
    • Identified transporter proteins involved
    • Cloned and expressed the enzyme that cleaves beta-carotene to vitamin A
      • Current investigations focus on these and other enzymes and proteins involved in the intestinal metabolism of dietary carotenoids
  • Formation and function of apocarotenoids, carotenoid metabolites that modulate vitamin A action
  • Study the enzymes known as retinyl ester hydrolases (REHs) that are important in both the uptake of dietary vitamin A by the liver and in the mobilization of stored vitamin A from the liver
    • A number of liver enzymes can catalyze the hydrolysis of vitamin A esters the molecular identity and physiological role of these enzymes is unclear
    • Attempt to fill these gaps in knowledge by isolating these proteins and studying their structure and function using techniques of biochemistry and molecular biology
  • Recent work focuses on the identification and characterization of members of the carboxylesterase enzyme family (particularly ES2, ES4 and ES10) as REHs involved in the uptake of chylomicron retinyl esters in liver

Selected Publications


  • Thomas, S.E. and E.H. Harrison (2016) Mechanisms of Selective Delivery of Xanthophylls to Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells by Human Lipoproteins. J. Lipid Res. jlr.M070193. First Published on August 18, 2016, doi:10.1194/jlr.M070193
  •  Costabile, B.K., Y-K Kim, J. Iqbal, M.V. Zuccaro, L. Wassef, S. Narayanasamy, R.W. Curley, E.H. Harrison, M.M. Hussain and L. Quadro (2016)  β-Apo-10’-carotenoids modulate placental microsomal triglyceride transfer protein expression and function to optimize transport of intact β-carotene to the embryo.  J. Biol. Chem. 291: 18525-18535.
  • Toomey, M.B., O. Lind, R.Frederiksen, R.W. Curley, K.M. Riedl, D. Wilby, S.J. Schwartz, C.C. Witt, E.H. Harrison, N.W. Roberts, M. Vorobyev, K.J. McGraw, M.C. Cornwall, A. Kelber and J.C. Corbo (2016) Complementary shifts in photoreceptor spectral tuning unlock the full adaptive potential of ultraviolet vision in birds. eLife 5:e15675
  • dela Sena, C., J. Sun, S. Narayanasamy, K.M. Riedl, Y. Yuan, R.W. Curley, S.J. Schwartz and E.H. Harrison (2016) Substrate specificity of purified recombinant chicken β-carotene 9’,10’-oxygenase (BCO2). J. Biol. Chem. 291: 14609-14619.
  • Harrison EH and C dela Sena (2015) Assimilation and Conversion of Dietary Vitamin A into Bioactive Retinoids.  In The Retinoids: Biology, Biochemistry, and Disease edited by P Dolle and K Niederrrither.  John Wiley & Sons, Inc.  Chapter 2; pp 35-56.
  • Raghuvanshi S, Reed V, Blaner WS, Harrison EH (2015).  Cellular localization of β-carotene 15,15' oxygenase-1 (BCO1) and β-carotene 9',10' oxygenase-2 (BCO2) in rat liver and intestine. Arch Biochem Biophys. 572: 19-27.
  • Wang CX, Jiang H, Yuen JJ, Lee SA, Narayanasamy S, Curley RW Jr, Harrison EH, Blaner WS (2015).  Actions of β-apo-carotenoids in differentiating cells: Differential effects in P19 cells and 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Arch Biochem Biophys. 572: 2-10.
  • Sun, J., S. Narayanasamy, R.W. Curley, S.J. and E.H. Harrison (2014) β-Apo-13-carotenone regulates retinoid X receptor transcriptional activity through tetramerization of the receptor. J. Biol. Chem. 289: 33118-33124.
  • Lee, S-A, H. Jiang, C.M. Trent, J.J. Yuen, S. Narayanasamy, R.W. Curley, E.H. Harrison, I.J. Goldberg, M.S. Mauer and W.S. Blaner (2014) Cardiac dysfunction in β-carotene-15,15’-dioxygenase-deficient mice is associated with altered retinoid and lipid metabolism. Am. J. Physiol. Heart Circ. Physiol. 307: H1675-H1684.
  • Kopec R.E., Cooperstone J.L., Schweiggert R.M., Young G.S., Harrison E.H., Francis D.M., Clinton S.K., Schwartz S.J. (2014)  Avocado consumption enhances human postprandial provitamin A absorption and conversion from a novel high-β-carotene tomato sauce and from carrots. J Nutr. 144: 58-66.
  • Ross, A.C. and E.H. Harrison (2014) Vitamin A: Nutritional Aspects of Retinoids and Carotenoids.  In Handbook of Vitamins, Fifth Edition, edited by J. Zempleni, J.W. Suttie, J.F. Gregory & P.J. Stover.  CRC Press, Boca Raton.  Chapter 1; pp 1-49.
  • dela Sena, C., S. Narayanasamy, K.M. Riedl, R.W. Curley, S.J. Schwartz and E.H. Harrison (2014) The human enzyme that converts dietary provitamin A carotenoids to vitamin A is a dioxygenase. J. Biol. Chem. 289: 13661-13666.
  • dela Sena, C., S. Narayanasamy, K.M. Riedl, R.W. Curley, S.J. Schwartz and E.H. Harrison (2013) Substrate specificity of purified recombinant human β-carotene 15,15’-oxygenase (BCO1). J. Biol. Chem. 288: 37094-37103.
  • Eroglu, A. and E.H. Harrison (2013) Carotenoid metabolism in mammals, including man: formation, occurrence, and function of apocarotenoids. J.Lipid Res. 54: 1719-1730.
  • Harrison, E.H., C. dela Sena, A. Eroglu and M.K. Fleshman (2012) The formation, occurrence, and function of β-apocarotenoids: β-carotene metabolites that may modulate nuclear receptor signaling. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 96: 1189S-1192S.
  • Harrison, E.H. (2012)   Digestion and Intestinal Absorption of Dietary Carotenoids and Vitamin A.  In Physiology of the Gastrointestinal Tract, Fifth Edition, edited by Leonard R. Johnson.  Elsevier Publishing. Chapter 62; pp 1663-1680.
  • Eroglu, A., D.P. Hruszkewycz, C. dela Sena, S. Narayanasamy, K.M. Riedl, R.E. Kopec, S.J. Schwartz, R.W. Curley and E.H. Harrison (2012) Naturally-occurring eccentric cleavage products of provitamin A β-carotene function as antagonists of retinoic acid receptors. J. Biol. Chem. 287: 15886-15895.
  • Fleshman, M.K., K.M. Riedl, J.A. Novotny, S.J. Schwartz and E.H. Harrison (2012) An LC/MS method for d8-β-carotene and d4-retinyl esters useful in studies of β-carotene absorption and its conversion to vitamin A in humans. J. Lipid Res. 53: 820-827.
  • Harrison, E.H. (2012) Mechanisms involved in the intestinal absorption of dietary vitamin A and provitamin A carotenoids.  Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1821: 70-77.