HMGB1 signaling phosphorylates Ku70 and impairs DNA damage repair in Alzheimer's disease pathology

Commun Biol. 2021 Oct 11;4(1):1175. doi: 10.1038/s42003-021-02671-4.


DNA damage is increased in Alzheimer's disease (AD), while the underlying mechanisms are unknown. Here, we employ comprehensive phosphoproteome analysis, and identify abnormal phosphorylation of 70 kDa subunit of Ku antigen (Ku70) at Ser77/78, which prevents Ku70-DNA interaction, in human AD postmortem brains. The abnormal phosphorylation inhibits accumulation of Ku70 to the foci of DNA double strand break (DSB), impairs DNA damage repair and eventually causes transcriptional repression-induced atypical cell death (TRIAD). Cells under TRIAD necrosis reveal senescence phenotypes. Extracellular high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) protein, which is released from necrotic or hyper-activated neurons in AD, binds to toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) of neighboring neurons, and activates protein kinase C alpha (PKCα) that executes Ku70 phosphorylation at Ser77/78. Administration of human monoclonal anti-HMGB1 antibody to post-symptomatic AD model mice decreases neuronal DSBs, suppresses secondary TRIAD necrosis of neurons, prevents escalation of neurodegeneration, and ameliorates cognitive symptoms. TRIAD shares multiple features with senescence. These results discover the HMGB1-Ku70 axis that accounts for the increase of neuronal DNA damage and secondary enhancement of TRIAD, the cell death phenotype of senescence, in AD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Animals
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA Repair*
  • HMGB1 Protein / genetics
  • HMGB1 Protein / physiology*
  • Ku Autoantigen / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Phosphorylation
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*


  • HMGB1 Protein
  • HMGB1 protein, human
  • Xrcc6 protein, human
  • Ku Autoantigen