Tubular Epithelial Cell HMGB1 Promotes AKI-CKD Transition by Sensitizing Cycling Tubular Cells to Oxidative Stress: A Rationale for Targeting HMGB1 during AKI Recovery

Zhi Bo Zhao, Julian A. Marschner, Takamasa Iwakura, Chenyu Li, Manga Motrapu, Meisi Kuang, Bastian Popper, Andreas Linkermann, Jan Klocke, Philipp Enghard, Yoshiharu Muto, Benjamin D. Humphreys, Helena Erlandsson Harris, Paola Romagnani, Hans Joachim Anders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Significance StatementCells undergoing necrosis release extracellular high mobility group box (HMGB)-1, which triggers sterile inflammation upon AKI in mice. Neither deletion of HMGB1 from tubular epithelial cells, nor HMGB1 antagonism with small molecules, affects initial ischemic tubular necrosis and immediate GFR loss upon unilateral ischemia/reperfusion injury (IRI). On the contrary, tubular cell-specific HMGB1 deficiency, and even late-onset pharmacological HMGB1 inhibition, increased functional and structural recovery from AKI, indicating that intracellular HMGB1 partially counters the effects of extracellular HMGB1. In vitro studies indicate that intracellular HMGB1 decreases resilience of tubular cells from prolonged ischemic stress, as in unilateral IRI. Intracellular HMGB1 is a potential target to enhance kidney regeneration and to improve long-term prognosis in AKI.BackgroundLate diagnosis is a hurdle for treatment of AKI, but targeting AKI-CKD transition may improve outcomes. High mobility group box-1 (HMGB1) is a nuclear regulator of transcription and a driver of necroinflammation in AKI. We hypothesized that HMGB1 would also modulate AKI-CKD transition in other ways.MethodsWe conducted single-cell transcriptome analysis of human and mouse AKI and mouse in vivo and in vitro studies with tubular cell-specific depletion of Hmgb1 and HMGB1 antagonists.ResultsHMGB1 was ubiquitously expressed in kidney cells. Preemptive HMGB1 antagonism with glycyrrhizic acid (Gly) and ethyl pyruvate (EP) did not affect postischemic AKI but attenuated AKI-CKD transition in a model of persistent kidney hypoxia. Consistently, tubular Hmgb1 depletion in Pax8 rtTA, TetO Cre, Hmgb1fl/flmice did not protect from AKI, but from AKI-CKD transition. In vitro studies confirmed that absence of HMGB1 or HMGB1 inhibition with Gly and EP does not affect ischemic necrosis of growth-arrested differentiated tubular cells but increased the resilience of cycling tubular cells that survived the acute injury to oxidative stress. This effect persisted when neutralizing extracellular HMGB1 with 2G7. Consistently, late-onset HMGB1 blockade with EP started after the peak of ischemic AKI in mice prevented AKI-CKD transition, even when 2G7 blocked extracellular HMGB1.ConclusionTreatment of AKI could become feasible when (1) focusing on long-term outcomes of AKI; (2) targeting AKI-CKD transition with drugs initiated after the AKI peak; and (3) targeting with drugs that block HMGB1 in intracellular and extracellular compartments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-411
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the American Society of Nephrology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023


  • HMGB1 receptors
  • anti-HMGB1
  • fibrosis
  • human scRNA-seq
  • inflammation
  • macrophages
  • necroinflammation
  • regeneration


Dive into the research topics of 'Tubular Epithelial Cell HMGB1 Promotes AKI-CKD Transition by Sensitizing Cycling Tubular Cells to Oxidative Stress: A Rationale for Targeting HMGB1 during AKI Recovery'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this