The ability of the immune system to discriminate between healthy-self, abnormal-self, and non-self has been attributed mainly to alarmins signaling as “danger signals”. It is now evident, however, that alarmins are much more complex and can perform specialized functions that can regulate a wide spectrum of processes ranging from propagation of disease to tissue homeostasis. As such, alarmins and their signaling mechanisms are now actively pursued as therapeutic targets. The clinical utility of alarmins requires an understanding of their specific localization. Specifically, many alarmins can function paradoxically depending upon their localization, intra or extracellular. The present review focuses upon alarmin presence and differential expression in the extracellular space versus within the cell and how variation of the localization of alarmins can reveal important mechanistic insights into alarmin functions and their efficacy as biomarkers of disease and therapeutic targets.
- Extracellular matrix