High-mobility group box 1 is responsible for monosodium urate crystal-induced inflammation in human U937 macrophages

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2018 Sep 18;503(4):3248-3255. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2018.08.139. Epub 2018 Aug 28.


High-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) was originally identified as a highly conserved non-histone DNA-binding factor and demonstrated to be a potent mediator in inflammatory diseases. We performed this study to investigate the role of HMGB1 in the pathogenesis of uric acid-induced inflammation in human U937 macrophages. To simulate uric acid-induced inflammation, human U937 macrophages were treated with monosodium urate (MSU) crystals. In addition to determining the effects of MSU crystal treatment on expression of various genes and proteins, cells were transfected with interfering RNA (siRNA) for HMGB1, or caspase-1 and then treated with MSU. Expression of interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-18, HMGB1, and caspase-1 was detected in human U937 cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in gout patients and healthy controls by western blot analysis or quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Transcript expression of IL-1β, IL-18, caspase-1, HMGB1 in PBMCs was significantly higher in active gout patients than inactive gout patients and healthy controls. The protein levels of these molecules were significantly increased by stimulation of U937 cells with 0.2 mg/ml MSU crystals. Stimulation of U937 cells with MSU crystals induced translocation of HMGB1 from the nucleus to the cytoplasm and its extracellular release. U937 cells transfected with caspase-1 siRNA had significantly lower HMGB1 expression in the cytoplasm and supernatant than non-transfected cells. Antioxidants, such as N-acetyl-l-cysteine and quercetin, markedly inhibited the nuclear-to-cytoplasmic translocation of HMGB1 and its release into the extracellular milieu. In conclusion, HMGB1, regulated by the enzymatic activity of caspase-1, is a crucial mediator in uric acid-induced inflammation.

Keywords: Caspase-1; HMGB1; Interleukin-18; Interleukin-1β; Monosodium urate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caspase 1 / immunology
  • HMGB1 Protein / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation Mediators / immunology
  • Interleukin-18 / immunology
  • Interleukin-1beta / immunology
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Male
  • U937 Cells
  • Uric Acid / immunology*


  • HMGB1 Protein
  • HMGB1 protein, human
  • IL18 protein, human
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Interleukin-18
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Uric Acid
  • Caspase 1