Endogenous signals released from necrotic cells augment inflammatory responses to bacterial endotoxin

Immunol Lett. 2007 Jul 31;111(1):36-44. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2007.04.011. Epub 2007 May 25.


Stressed cells undergoing necrosis release molecules that acts as endogenous danger signals to alert and activate innate immune cells. Both HMGB1 and HSP70 are induced in activated monocytes/macrophages and also are released from stressed or injured cells. We investigated whether HMGB1 and HSP70 released from necrotic monocytes/macrophages, can act as danger signals to mediate proinflammatory cytokine responses to bacterial endotoxin or lipopolysaccharide (LPS). We show that cell lysate, obtained from necrotic cells directly stimulates the proinflammatory cytokine and chemokine responses in human monocyte/macrophage cell line, THP-1, as revealed by the induction of TNF-alpha, IL-6 and IL-8 mRNA expression and protein production. In the presence of LPS, necrotic cell lysate induced a more robust increase in all three proteins. We found that HMGB1 and HSP70 were indeed present in the necrotic cell lysate and were responsible for the significant induction of the proinflammatory cytokine expression, as neutralization with antibodies against both proteins blocked the increase in the cytokine production seen after incubating LPS-stimulated cells with the necrotic cell lysate. We also found that the newly identified triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells-1 (TREM-1) was involved in mediating the HMGB1- and HSP70-induced cytokine production. Blocking TREM-1 on THP-1 cells with a recombinant chimera prevented the increase in cytokine production, while simultaneous blocking of TLR4 and TREM-1 completely abolished the proinflammatory response, suggesting that TREM-1 synergizes with TLR4 to mediate the effects of such signals from necrotic cells. In addition, blocking HMGB1 or HSP70 simultaneously with TREM-1 did not decrease the cytokine level further, confirming the involvement of TREM-1 in mediating the effect of HMGB1 and HSP70. Although the interaction of HMGB1 and HSP70 with TREM-1 induced I kappa B alpha and p38 expression, both of which are required for the inflammatory cytokine expression, blockade of TREM-1 did not affect I kappa B alpha expression but markedly reduced p38 activation, as revealed by Western blot analysis. Together, these results demonstrate that HMGB1 and HSP70 released from necrotic cells function as endogenous danger signals to augment the proinflammatory responses in monocytes/macrophage and that TREM-1 relays such signals to the cytokine expression cascade. This mechanism may contribute to the amplification and persistence of the inflammatory response to bacterial infection.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endotoxins / immunology*
  • Endotoxins / pharmacology
  • HMGB1 Protein / immunology*
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation* / immunology
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-8 / metabolism
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Monocytes / immunology
  • Necrosis
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Endotoxins
  • HMGB1 Protein
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-8
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha