Research Papers:

Nuclear receptor 4A1 (NR4A1) as a drug target for treating rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS)

Alexandra Lacey, Erik Hedrick, Xi Li, Ketan Patel, Ravi Doddapaneni, Mandip Singh and Stephen Safe _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:31257-31269. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.9112

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Alexandra Lacey1, Erik Hedrick1, Xi Li1, Ketan Patel2, Ravi Doddapaneni2, Mandip Singh2, Stephen Safe1

1Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology, Texas A&M University, College Station, 77843, TX, USA

2College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, 32307, FL, USA

Correspondence to:

Stephen Safe, email: [email protected]

Keywords: NR4A1, C-DIMs, NR4A1 antagonists, rhabdomyosarcoma, inhibition

Received: March 03, 2016     Accepted: April 16, 2016     Published: April 29, 2016


The orphan nuclear receptor NR4A1 is expressed in tumors from rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) patients and Rh30 and RD RMS cell lines, and we used RNA interference (RNAi) to investigate the role of this receptor in RMS cells. Knockdown of NR4A1 in Rh30 cells decreased cell proliferation, induced Annexin V staining and induced polyADPribose polymerase (PARP) cleavage and these results were similar to those observed in other solid tumors. Previous studies show that NR4A1 regulates expression of growth promoting/pro-survival genes with GC-rich promoters, activates mTOR through suppression of p53, and maintains low oxidative stress by regulating expression of isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1) and thioredoxin domain containing 5 (TXNDC5). Results of RNAi studies demonstrated that NR4A1 also regulates these pathways and associated genes in RMS cells and thereby exhibits pro-oncogenic activity. 1,1-Bis(3-indolyl)-1-(p-substituted phenyl)methane (C-DIM) analogs containing p-hydroxyl (DIM-C-pPhOH) and p-carboxymethyl (DIM-C-pPhCO2Me) substituents are NR4A1 ligands that decreased NR4A1-dependent transactivation in RMS cells and inhibited RMS cell and tumor growth and induced apoptosis. Moreover, the effects of NR4A1 knockdown and the C-DIM/NR4A1 antagonists were comparable as inhibitors of NR4A1-dependent genes/pathways. Both NR4A1 knockdown and treatment with DIM-C-pPhOH and DIM-C-pPhCO2Me also induced ROS which activated stress genes and induced sestrin 2 which activated AMPK and inhibited mTOR in the mutant p53 RMS cells. Since NR4A1 regulates several growth-promoting/pro-survival pathways in RMS, the C-DIM/NR4A1 antagonists represent a novel mechanism-based approach for treating this disease alone or in combination and thereby reducing the adverse effects of current cytotoxic therapies.

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