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Keywords:

  • autoantibodies;
  • High-mobility group box 1;
  • nucleosomes;
  • receptor for advanced glycation end products;
  • systemic lupus erythematosus;
  • Toll-like receptors

Abstract.  Urbonaviciute V, Voll RE (Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen; and University Medical Centre Freiburg, Freiburg/Breisgau; Germany). High-mobility group box 1 represents a potential marker of disease activity and novel therapeutic target in systemic lupus erythematosus (Symposium). J Intern Med 2011; 270: 309–318.

High-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) protein is a nuclear DNA-binding protein, which functions as an alarmin when released from cells. Recent studies implicate extracellular HMGB1 in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a prototypical autoimmune disease characterized by the formation of multiple autoantibodies, especially those directed against nucleosomes and double-stranded (ds)DNA. Elevated concentrations of HMGB1 are observed in sera as well as in skin lesions of patients with lupus. Of importance, serum HMGB1 and anti-HMGB1 autoantibody levels correlate with disease activity. In the blood of patients with SLE, HMGB1 is complexed with nucleosomes, at least partially. Moreover, HMGB1–nucleosome complexes from apoptotic cells activate antigen-presenting cells. Injection of HMGB1–nucleosome complexes into nonautoimmune mice results in the formation of autoantibodies against dsDNA and histones in a Toll-like receptor (TLR) 2-dependent manner. Additionally, HMGB1, as a part of DNA–anti-DNA immune complexes, can interact with receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE) on the surface of plasmacytoid dendritic cells and B cells leading to TLR9-dependent interferon (IFN)α release and activation of autoreactive B cells, respectively. HMGB1 attached to neutrophil extracellular traps may contribute to IFNα production by facilitating the recognition of self-nucleic acids. Furthermore, HMGB1, complexed with DNA and pathogenic anti-DNA autoantibodies, activates its receptors, TLR2, TLR4 and RAGE, and may thereby be involved in anti-DNA autoantibody-induced kidney damage in lupus nephritis. Collectively, these findings suggest that HMGB1 is a potential marker of disease activity and, because of its probable involvement in the pathogenesis, a novel therapeutic target in SLE.