Fecal HMGB1 is a novel marker of intestinal mucosal inflammation in pediatric inflammatory bowel disease

Roberta Vitali, Laura Stronati, Anna Negroni, Giovanni Di Nardo, Maria Pierdomenico, Emanuela Del Giudice, Paolo Rossi, Salvatore Cucchiara

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Objectives: High-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) is a nuclear protein with functions in the regulation of transcription. In inflammatory conditions, HMGB1 is actively secreted from immune cells in the extracellular matrix, where it behaves as a proinflammatory cytokine. The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of HMGB1 in pediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Methods: We analyzed the stools of 19 children with Crohn's disease (CD), 21 with ulcerative colitis (UC), and 13 controls. The gene/protein expression levels of HMGB1 were assessed in bioptic specimens of all children using real-time PCR and western blot assay. Finally, intracellular localization of the protein was analyzed by western blot, after separation of nuclear and cytoplasmic extracts, and by immunohistochemistry. Results: HMGB1 protein levels were significantly increased (P<0.001) in the stools of patients, but were undetectable in the controls; fecal HMGB1 correlated well with fecal calprotectin levels (r: 0.77 in CD, r: 0.70 in UC; P<0.01); and mRNA and protein expression were unchanged in inflamed bioptic tissues compared with controls. However, by separately analyzing the nuclear and cytoplasmic fraction, we detected the cytoplasmic HMGB1 expression to be significantly enhanced (P<0.01) in the inflamed tissues of the patients. In addition, HMGB1 was significantly detected in 16 patients with inactive disease, whose endoscopic scores showed persisting inflammation, suggesting that it may be a sensitive marker of mucosal inflammation, although the disease is clinically inactive. Conclusions: It was shown for the first time in our study that HMGB1 is secreted by human inflamed intestinal tissues and abundantly found in the stools of IBD patients. Hence, it can be considered as a novel marker for intestinal inflammation. We can also suggest that the presence of HMGB1 in large amounts in the fecal stream of IBD patients is mainly due to active secretion of the protein stored in the nucleus rather than a de novo synthesis. © 2011 by the American College of Gastroenterology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2029 - 2040
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gastroenterology

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