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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2010 Aug;30(8):1535-41. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.109.191163.

NR4A orphan nuclear receptors: transcriptional regulators of gene expression in metabolism and vascular biology.

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Saha Cardiovascular Research Center, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Lexington, USA.


Members of the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily, including the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor and the liver X receptor subfamilies, orchestrate transcriptional networks involved in the control of metabolism and the development of vascular disease. In addition to these well-characterized ligand-activated transcription factors, the nuclear receptor (NR) superfamily comprises many orphan receptors, whose ligands and physiological functions remain unknown. Among this group of orphan receptors is the NR4A subfamily, including Nur77 (NR4A1), Nurr1 (NR4A2), and NOR1 (NR4A3). These orphan NRs constitute an evolutionary ancient and highly conserved group of transcription factors. In contrast to other members of the superfamily, NR4A receptors function as ligand-independent transcription factors and immediate- or early-response genes, which are rapidly induced by a pleiotropy of environmental cues. Early functional studies have pointed to a critical role of NR4A receptors in regulating differentiation, proliferation, and apoptosis. More recent research has characterized NR4A receptors as key transcriptional regulators of glucose and lipid homeostasis, adipogenesis, inflammation, and vascular remodeling. In this review, we will summarize recent advances in understanding the molecular biology and physiological functions of NR4A receptors and discuss their role in the transcriptional control of metabolism and vascular remodeling.

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