RORα suppresses cancer-associated inflammation by repressing respiratory complex I-dependent ROS generation

Wei Mao, Gaofeng Xiong, Yuanyuan Wu, Chi Wang, Daret St Clair, Jia Da Li, Ren Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Breast cancer development is associated with macrophage infiltration and differentiation in the tumor microenvironment. Our previous study highlights the crucial function of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in enhancing macrophage infiltration during the disruption of mammary tissue polarity. However, the regulation of ROS and ROS-associated macrophage infiltration in breast cancer has not been fully determined. Previous studies identified retinoid orphan nuclear receptor alpha (RORα) as a potential tumor suppressor in human breast cancer. In the present study, we showed that retinoid orphan nuclear receptor alpha (RORα) significantly decreased ROS levels and inhibited ROS-mediated cytokine expression in breast cancer cells. RORα expression in mammary epithelial cells inhibited macrophage infiltration by repressing ROS generation in the co-culture assay. Using gene co-expression and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analyses, we identified complex I subunits NDUFS6 and NDUFA11 as RORα targets that mediated its function in suppressing superoxide generation in mitochondria. Notably, the expression of RORα in 4T1 cells significantly inhibited cancer metastasis, reduced macrophage accumulation, and enhanced M1-like macrophage differentiation in tumor tissue. In addition, reduced RORα expression in breast cancer tissue was associated with an increased incidence of cancer metastasis. These results provide additional insights into cancer-associated inflammation, and identify RORα as a potential target to suppress ROS-induced mammary tumor progression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10665
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was supported by NIH, P20 GM121327 to D.S.C.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Breast cancer
  • Complex I
  • Macrophage
  • Orphan nuclear receptor
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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