Nuclear receptor 4A2 (NR4A2) is a druggable target for glioblastomas

Keshav Karki, Xi Li, Un Ho Jin, Kumaravel Mohankumar, Mahsa Zarei, Sharon K. Michelhaugh, Sandeep Mittal, Ronald Tjalkens, Stephen Safe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


INTRODUCTION: The orphan nuclear receptor 4A2 (NR4A2) has been extensively characterized in subcellular regions of the brain and is necessary for the function of dopaminergic neurons. The NR4A2 ligand, 1,1-bis (3 1-indoly1)-1-(p-chlorophenyl)methane (DIM-C-pPhCl) inhibits markers of neuroinflammation and degeneration in mouse models and in this study we investigated expression and function of NR4A2 in glioblastoma (GBM).

METHODS: Established and patient-derived cell lines were used as models and the expression and functions of NR4A2 were determined by western blots and NR4A2 gene silencing by antisense oligonucleotides respectively. Effects of NR4A2 knockdown and DIM-C-pPhCl on cell growth, induction of apoptosis (Annexin V Staining) and migration/invasion (Boyden chamber and spheroid invasion assay) and transactivation of NR4A2-regulated reporter genes were determined. Tumor growth was investigated in athymic nude mice bearing U87-MG cells as xenografts.

RESULTS: NR4A2 knockdown and DIM-C-pPhCl inhibited GBM cell and tumor growth, induced apoptosis and inhibited migration and invasion of GBM cells. DIM-C-pPhCl and related analogs also inhibited NR4A2-regulated transactivation (luciferase activity) confirming that DIM-C-pPhCl acts as an NR4A2 antagonist and blocks NR4A2-dependent pro-oncogenic responses in GBM.

CONCLUSION: We demonstrate for the first time that NR4A2 is pro-oncogenic in GBM and thus a potential druggable target for patients with tumors expressing this receptor. Moreover, our bis-indole-derived NR4A2 antagonists represent a novel class of anti-cancer agents with potential future clinical applications for treating GBM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-39
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuro-Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Glioblastoma
  • Growth inhibition
  • NR4A2
  • NR4A2 antagonist
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4, Group A, Member 2/antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Prognosis
  • Humans
  • RNA, Small Interfering/genetics
  • Survival Rate
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic/drug effects
  • Biomarkers, Tumor/genetics
  • Indoles/pharmacology
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays
  • Glioblastoma/drug therapy
  • Antineoplastic Agents/pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Mice, Nude
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Movement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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