In response to infection or injury, a ubiquitous nucleosomal protein, HMGB1 is secreted actively by innate immune cells, and/or released passively by injured/damaged cells. Subsequently, extracellular HMGB1 alerts, recruits, and activates various innate immune cells to sustain a rigorous inflammatory response. A growing number of HMGB1 inhibitors ranging from neutralizing antibodies, endogenous hormones, to medicinal herb-derived small molecules (such as nicotine, glycyrrhizin, tanshinones, and EGCG) are proven protective against lethal infection and ischemic injury. Here we review emerging evidence that support extracellular HMGB1 as a proinflammatory alarmin(g) danger signal, and discuss a wide array of HMGB1 inhibitors as potential therapeutic agents for sepsis and ischemic injury.
Keywords: Innate immune cells, phagocytes, inflammation, cytokines, sepsis, antibodies, HMGB1, tanshinones
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