The novel inflammatory cytokine high mobility group box protein 1 (HMGB1) is expressed by human term placenta


Dr U. Holmlund, Department of Immunology, The Wenner-Gren Institute, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.
Senior author: Dr K. Palmblad,


High mobility group box protein 1 (HMGB1) was previously considered a strict nuclear protein, but lately data are accumulating on its extranuclear functions. In addition to its potent proinflammatory capacities, HMGB1 has a prominent role in a number of processes of specific interest for the placenta. Our overall aim was to investigate the expression of HMGB1 in human term placenta and elucidate a potential difference in HMGB1 expression comparing vaginal deliveries with elective Caesarean sections. In addition, placentas from normal pregnancies were compared with placentas from pregnancies complicated by pre-eclampsia. Twenty-five placentas, 12 from normal term pregnancies and 13 from pregnancies complicated by pre-eclampsia were analysed with immunohistochemistry for HMGB1 and its putative receptors; receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE), Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) and TLR4. We present the novel finding that in addition to a strong nuclear HMGB1 expression in almost all cells in investigated placentas, an individual variation of cytoplasmic HMGB1 expression was detected in the syncytiotrophoblast covering the peripheral chorionic villi, by cells in the decidua and in amnion. Production of HMGB1 was confirmed by in situ hybridization. Although labour can be described as a controlled inflammatory-like process no differences in HMGB1 expression could be observed comparing active labour and elective Caesarean sections. However, a tendency towards a higher expression of cytoplasmic HMGB1 in the decidua from women with pre-eclampsia was demonstrated. The abundant expression of the receptors RAGE, TLR2 and TLR4 implicates a local capability to respond to HMGB1, although the precise role in the placenta remains to be elucidated.