Targeting the cholesterol-RORα/γ axis inhibits colorectal cancer progression through degrading c-myc

Oncogene. 2022 Dec;41(49):5266-5278. doi: 10.1038/s41388-022-02515-3. Epub 2022 Oct 31.


Dysregulated cholesterol metabolism is a hallmark of colorectal cancer (CRC). However, the usage of cholesterol-lowering agents seemed to have no benefit in CRC patients. In this study, we focused on the cholesterol-nuclear receptors (NRs) axis as a strategy. Cholesterol and its derivatives work as ligands for different nuclear receptors, thus promoting cancer progression. The key NR downstream of cholesterol in CRC is unknown. Here, we treated CRC cells with a cholesterol-lowering agent and lipoprotein-depleted conditioned medium, and then detected the change of the putative NRs. The results revealed that RORα/γ (Retinoic acid receptor-related Orphan Receptor α/γ) levels exhibited the most obvious increases in CRC cells subjected them to cholesterol deprivation. RORα/γ agonists significantly inhibited CRC cells proliferation and migration in vitro and in vivo. Also, RORα/γ overexpression repressed CRC cells proliferation and migration in vitro and in vivo and RORα/γ knockdown promoted it. Mechanistically, RORα/γ agonists promoted c-myc degradation by activating the transcription of the ubiquitinase NEDD4. Intriguingly, the combination of RORα/γ agonists and atorvastatin had a synergistic effect on inhibiting CRC cells. These findings demonstrate that the cholesterol- RORα/γ axis is important for maintaining c-myc protein levels. Combination therapy with atorvastatin and RORα/γ agonist is a promising therapeutic strategy for CRC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atorvastatin / pharmacology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cholesterol*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Ligands


  • Atorvastatin
  • Cholesterol
  • Ligands