Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type





Nutritional Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Dennis Bruemmer


The neuron-derived orphan receptor 1 (NOR1) belongs to the NR4A nuclear receptor subfamily. As an immediate early response gene, NOR1 is rapidly induced by a broad spectrum of physiological and pathological signals. Functional studies demonstrate NOR1 as a constitutively active ligand-independent nuclear receptor whose transcriptional activity is dependent on both expression level and posttranslational modifications. To date, an increasing number of studies have demonstrated a pivotal role of NOR1 in the transcriptional control of metabolism and the development of cardiovascular diseases.

In this dissertation, we demonstrate NOR1 expression in endothelial cells and sub-endothelial cells of human atherosclerotic lesions. In response to inflammatory stimuli, NOR1 expression is rapidly induced in endothelial cells through an NF-κB-dependent signaling pathway. Functional studies reveal that NOR1 increases monocyte adhesion by inducing the expression of adhesion molecules VCAM-1 and ICAM-1 in endothelial cells. Transient transfection and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays identify VCAM-1 as a bona fide NOR1 target gene in endothelial cells. Finally, we demonstrate that NOR1-deficiency reduces hypercholesterolemia-induced atherosclerosis formation in apoE-/- mice by decreasing the macrophage content of the lesion.

In smooth muscle cells (SMC), NOR1 was previously established as a cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) target gene in response to platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) stimulation. CREB phosphorylation and subsequent binding of phosphorylated CREB to the NOR1 promoter play a critical role in inducing NOR1 expression. In this dissertation, we further demonstrate that histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibition potentiates and sustains PDGF-induced NOR1 mRNA and protein expression in SMC. This augmented NOR1 expression is associated with increased phosphorylation of CREB, recruitment of phosphorylated CREB to the NOR1 promoter, and trans-activation of the NOR1 promoter. Additionally, HDAC inhibition also increases NOR1 protein half-life in SMC.

Collectively, these findings identify a novel pathway in endothelial cells underlying monocyte adhesion and expand our knowledge of the epigenetic mechanisms orchestrating NOR1 expression in SMC. Finally, we establish a previously unrecognized atherogenic role of NOR1 in positively regulating monocyte recruitment to the vascular wall.