Disulfide HMGB1 acts via TLR2/4 receptors to reduce the numbers of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells after traumatic injury in vitro

Sci Rep. 2021 Mar 17;11(1):6181. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-84932-0.


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is associated with poor clinical outcomes; autopsy studies of TBI victims demonstrate significant oligodendrocyte progenitor cell (OPC) death post TBI; an observation, which may explain the lack of meaningful repair of injured axons. Whilst high-mobility group box-1 (HMGB1) and its key receptors TLR2/4 are identified as key initiators of neuroinflammation post-TBI, they have been identified as attractive targets for development of novel therapeutic approaches to improve post-TBI clinical outcomes. In this report we establish unequivocal evidence that HMGB1 released in vitro impairs OPC response to mechanical injury; an effect that is pharmacologically reversible. We show that needle scratch injury hyper-acutely induced microglial HMGB1 nucleus-to-cytoplasm translocation and subsequent release into culture medium. Application of injury-conditioned media resulted in significant decreases in OPC number through anti-proliferative effects. This effect was reversed by co-treatment with the TLR2/4 receptor antagonist BoxA. Furthermore, whilst injury conditioned medium drove OPCs towards an activated reactive morphology, this was also abolished after BoxA co-treatment. We conclude that HMGB1, through TLR2/4 dependant mechanisms, may be detrimental to OPC proliferation following injury in vitro, negatively affecting the potential for restoring a mature oligodendrocyte population, and subsequent axonal remyelination. Further study is required to assess how HMGB1-TLR signalling influences OPC maturation and myelination capacity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / metabolism*
  • HMGB1 Protein / metabolism*
  • Oligodendrocyte Precursor Cells / cytology
  • Oligodendrocyte Precursor Cells / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / metabolism*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism*


  • HMGB1 Protein
  • Hbp1 protein, rat
  • Tlr2 protein, rat
  • Tlr4 protein, rat
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4