The redox protein HMGB1 in cell death and cancer

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2023 Feb 2. doi: 10.1089/ars.2023.0007. Online ahead of print.


Significance: As a redox-sensitive protein, high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) is implicated in regulating stress responses to oxidative damage and cell death, which are closely related to the pathology of inflammatory diseases, including cancer.

Recent advances: HMGB1 is a non-histone nuclear protein that acts as a DNA chaperone to control chromosomal structure and function. HMGB1 can also be released into the extracellular space and function as a damage-associated molecular pattern protein during cell death, including during apoptosis, necrosis, necroptosis, pyroptosis, ferroptosis, alkaliptosis, and cuproptosis. Once released, HMGB1 binds to membrane receptors to shape immune and metabolic responses. In addition to subcellular localization, the function and activity of HMGB1 also depends on its redox state and protein posttranslational modifications. Abnormal HMGB1 plays a dual role in tumorigenesis and anticancer therapy (e.g., chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy) depending on tumor types and stages.

Critical issues: A comprehensive understanding of the role of HMGB1 in cellular redox homeostasis is important for deciphering normal cellular functions and pathological manifestations. In this review, we discuss compartmental-defined roles of HMGB1 in regulating cell death and cancer. Understanding these advances may help us develop potential HMGB1-targeting drugs or approaches to treat oxidative stress-related diseases or pathological conditions.

Future directions: Further studies are required to dissect the mechanism by which HMGB1 maintains redox homeostasis under different stress conditions. A multidisciplinary effort is also required to evaluate the potential applications of precisely targeting the HMGB1 pathway in human health and disease.