HMGB1 in health and disease

Rui Kang*, Ruochan Chen, Qiuhong Zhang, Wen Hou, Sha Wu, Lizhi Cao, Jin Huang, Yan Yu, Xue Gong Fan, Zhengwen Yan, Xiaofang Sun, Haichao Wang, Qingde Wang, Allan Tsung, Timothy R. Billiar, Herbert J. Zeh, Michael T. Lotze, Daolin Tang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

723 Scopus citations


Complex genetic and physiological variations as well as environmental factors that drive emergence of chromosomal instability, development of unscheduled cell death, skewed differentiation, and altered metabolism are central to the pathogenesis of human diseases and disorders. Understanding the molecular bases for these processes is important for the development of new diagnostic biomarkers, and for identifying new therapeutic targets. In 1973, a group of non-histone nuclear proteins with high electrophoretic mobility was discovered and termed high-mobility group (HMG) proteins. The HMG proteins include three superfamilies termed HMGB, HMGN, and HMGA. High-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1), the most abundant and well-studied HMG protein, senses and coordinates the cellular stress response and plays a critical role not only inside of the cell as a DNA chaperone, chromosome guardian, autophagy sustainer, and protector from apoptotic cell death, but also outside the cell as the prototypic damage associated molecular pattern molecule (DAMP). This DAMP, in conjunction with other factors, thus has cytokine, chemokine, and growth factor activity, orchestrating the inflammatory and immune response. All of these characteristics make HMGB1 a critical molecular target in multiple human diseases including infectious diseases, ischemia, immune disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, metabolic disorders, and cancer. Indeed, a number of emergent strategies have been used to inhibit HMGB1 expression, release, and activity in vitro and in vivo. These include antibodies, peptide inhibitors, RNAi, anti-coagulants, endogenous hormones, various chemical compounds, HMGB1-receptor and signaling pathway inhibition, artificial DNAs, physical strategies including vagus nerve stimulation and other surgical approaches. Future work further investigating the details of HMGB1 localization, structure, post-translational modification, and identification of additional partners will undoubtedly uncover additional secrets regarding HMGB1's multiple functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-116
Number of pages116
JournalMolecular Aspects of Medicine
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Biology
  • DAMP
  • Disease
  • HMGB1


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