Necrosis-Released HMGB1 (High Mobility Group Box 1) in the Progressive Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Associated with Male Sex

Marina Zemskova, Nolan McClain, Maki Niihori, Mathews V. Varghese, Joel James, Ruslan Rafikov, Olga Rafikova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Damage-associated molecular patterns, such as HMGB1 (high mobility group box 1), play a well-recognized role in the development of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a progressive fatal disease of the pulmonary vasculature. However, the contribution of the particular type of vascular cells, type of cell death, or the form of released HMGB1 in PAH remains unclear. Moreover, although male patients with PAH show a higher level of circulating HMGB1, its involvement in the severe PAH phenotype reported in males is unknown. In this study, we aimed to investigate the sources and active forms of HMGB1 released from damaged vascular cells and their contribution to the progressive type of PAH in males. Our results showed that HMGB1 is released by either pulmonary artery human endothelial cells or human pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells that underwent necrotic cell death, although only human pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells produce HMGB1 during apoptosis. Moreover, only human pulmonary artery smooth muscle cell death induced a release of dimeric HMGB1, found to be mitochondrial reactive oxygen species dependent, and TLR4 (toll-like receptor 4) activation. The modified Sugen/Hypoxia rat model replicates the human sexual dimorphism in PAH severity (right ventricle systolic pressure in males versus females 54.7±2.3 versus 44.6±2 mm Hg). By using this model, we confirmed that necroptosis and necrosis are the primary sources of circulating HMGB1 in the male rats, although only necrosis increased circulation of HMGB1 dimers. Attenuation of necrosis but not apoptosis or necroptosis prevented TLR4 activation in males and blunted the sex differences in PAH severity. We conclude that necrosis, through the release of HMGB1 dimers, predisposes males to a progressive form of PAH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1787-1799
Number of pages13
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • apoptosis
  • hypertension, pulmonary
  • hypoxia
  • necrosis
  • phenotype

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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