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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2006 Oct;26(10):2288-94. Epub 2006 Jul 27.

Nuclear receptors Nur77, Nurr1, and NOR-1 expressed in atherosclerotic lesion macrophages reduce lipid loading and inflammatory responses.

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  • 1Department of Medical Biochemistry, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease in which macrophage activation and lipid loading play a crucial role. In this study, we investigated expression and function of the NR4A nuclear receptor family, comprising Nur77 (NR4A1, TR3), Nurr1 (NR4A2), and NOR-1 (NR4A3) in human macrophages.


Nur77, Nurr1, and NOR-1 are expressed in early and advanced human atherosclerotic lesion macrophages primarily in areas of plaque activation/progression as detected by in situ-hybridization and immunohistochemistry. Protein expression localizes to the nucleus. Primary and THP-1 macrophages transiently express NR4A-factors in response to lipopolysaccharide and tumor necrosis factor alpha. Lentiviral overexpression of Nur77, Nurr1, or NOR-1 reduces expression and production of interleukin (IL)-1beta and IL-6 proinflammatory cytokines and IL-8, macrophage inflammatory protein-1alpha and -1beta and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 chemokines. In addition, NR4A-factors reduce oxidized-low-density lipoprotein uptake, consistent with downregulation of scavenger receptor-A, CD36, and CD11b macrophage marker genes. Knockdown of Nur77 or NOR-1 with gene-specific lentiviral short-hairpin RNAs resulted in enhanced cytokine and chemokine synthesis, increased lipid loading, and augmented CD11b expression, demonstrating endogenous NR4A-factors to inhibit macrophage activation, foam-cell formation, and differentiation.


NR4A-factors are expressed in human atherosclerotic lesion macrophages and reduce human macrophage lipid loading and inflammatory responses, providing further evidence for a protective role of NR4A-factors in atherogenesis.

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