• endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs);
  • high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1);
  • neurovascular unit;
  • reactive astrocytes;
  • white matter injury;
  • white matter remodeling


High-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) was initially described as a damage-associated-molecular-pattern (DAMP) mediator that worsens acute brain injury after stroke. But, recent findings suggest that HMGB1 can play a surprisingly beneficial role during stroke recovery by promoting endothelial progenitor cell (EPC) function and vascular remodeling in cortical gray matter. Here, we ask whether HMGB1 may also influence EPC responses in white matter injury. The standard lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC) injection model was used to induce focal demyelination in the corpus callosum of mice. Immunostaining showed that within the focal white matter lesions, HMGB1 was up-regulated in GFAP-positive reactive astrocytes, along with the accumulation of Flk1/CD34-double-positive EPCs that expressed pro-recovery mediators such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor and basic fibroblast growth factor. Astrocyte–EPC signaling required the HMGB1 receptor RAGE as treatment with RAGE-neutralizing antibody significantly decreased EPC accumulation. Moreover, suppression of HMGB1 with siRNA in vivo significantly decreased EPC numbers in damaged white matter as well as proliferated endothelial cell numbers. Finally, in vitro cell culture systems confirmed that HMGB1 directly affected EPC function such as migration and tube formation. Taken together, our findings suggest that HMGB1 from reactive astrocytes may attract EPCs to promote recovery after white matter injury.