NR4A1 (Nur77) deletion polarizes macrophages toward an inflammatory phenotype and increases atherosclerosis

Richard N. Hanna, Iftach Shaked, Harper G. Hubbeling, Jennifer A. Punt, Runpei Wu, Erica Herrley, Claudia Zaugg, Hong Pei, Frederic Geissmann, Klaus Ley, Catherine C. Hedrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

301 Scopus citations


Rationale: NR4A1 (Nur77) is a nuclear receptor that is expressed in macrophages and within atherosclerotic lesions, yet its function in atherosclerosis is unknown. Objective: Nur77 regulates the development of monocytes, particularly patrolling Ly6C -/- monocytes that may be involved in resolution of inflammation. We sought to determine how absence of nuclear receptor subfamily 4, group A, member 1 (NR4A1) in hematopoietic cells affected atherosclerosis development. Methods and Results: Nur77 -/- chimeric mice on a Ldlr -/- background showed a 3-fold increase in atherosclerosis development when fed a Western diet for 20 weeks, despite having a drastic reduction in Ly6C -/- patrolling monocytes. In a second model, mice deficient in both Nur77 and ApoE (ApoE -/-Nur77 -/-) also showed increased atherosclerosis after 11 weeks of Western diet. Atherosclerosis was associated with a significant change in macrophage polarization toward a proinflammatory phenotype, with high expression of tumor necrosis factor-α and nitric oxide and low expression of Arginase-I. Moreover, we found increased expression of toll-like receptor 4 mRNA and protein in Nur77 -/- macrophages as well as increased phosphorylation of the p65 subunit of NFκB. Inhibition of NFκB activity blocked excess activation of Nur77 -/- macrophages. Conclusions: We conclude that the absence of Nur77 -/- in monocytes and macrophages results in enhanced toll-like receptor signaling and polarization of macrophages toward a proinflammatory M1 phenotype. Despite having fewer monocytes, Nur77 mice developed significant atherosclerosis when fed a Western diet. These studies indicate that Nur77 is a novel target for modulating the inflammatory phenotype of monocytes and macrophages and may be important for regulation of atherogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)416-427
Number of pages12
JournalCirculation research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 3 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • atherosclerosis
  • macrophage
  • monocyte
  • nuclear receptors
  • toll-like receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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