The nuclear retinoid-related orphan receptor RORα controls adipose tissue inflammation in patients with morbid obesity and diabetes

Int J Obes (Lond). 2021 Jul;45(7):1369-1381. doi: 10.1038/s41366-021-00787-5. Epub 2021 Feb 26.


Background/aims: Inflammation governs adipose tissue (AT) dysfunction in obesity. Retinoic acid receptor-related orphan receptor alpha (RORα) is associated with inflammation and insulin resistance in animal studies, but its role in human obesity remains elusive. We investigated the expression and function of RORα on AT inflammation in patients with morbid obesity with/without diabetes.

Subjects/methods: We assessed RORα expression in paired biopsies of subcutaneous and omental AT from 41 patients (body mass index (BMI) 43.3 ± 0.8 kg/m2) during Roux-en-Y-gastric surgery and explored the functional consequences of pharmacological RORα blockade in AT ex vivo.

Results: RORα expression was significantly higher in omental AT than in subcutaneous AT (p = 0.03) and was positively associated with BMI (r = 0.344, p = 0.027) and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (r = 0.319, p = 0.041). In ex vivo assays, IL-8/CXCL8 and MCP-1/CCL2 chemokine release was significantly higher in omental fat explants from diabetic patients than from non-diabetics and was significantly diminished by RORα blockade (p < 0.05). Inhibition of RORα improved protein kinase B signaling and decreased NF-κB activity in omental AT from patients with diabetes (p < 0.05). Under dynamic flow conditions, RORα blockade prevented mononuclear cell attachment to human dysfunctional endothelial cells.

Conclusions: RORα blockade represents a potential therapy to prevent AT dysfunction and inflammation associated with insulin resistance in human obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / cytology
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 1 / metabolism*
  • Obesity, Morbid* / complications
  • Obesity, Morbid* / metabolism
  • Tissue Culture Techniques


  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group F, Member 1
  • RORA protein, human