Like the histones, HMGB1 is among the most important chromatin proteins. In the nucleus HMGB1 interacts with nucleosomes, transcription factors, and histones. This nuclear protein organizes the DNA and regulates transcription. After binding, HMGB1 bendsDNA, which facilitates the binding of other proteins. HMGB1 supports transcription of many genes in interactions with many transcription factors. It also interacts with nucleosomes to loosen packed DNA and remodel the chromatin. Contact with core histones changes the structure of nucleosomes.
The presence of HMGB1 in the nucleus depends on posttranslational modifications. When the protein is not acetylated, it stays in the nucleus, but hyperacetylation on lysine residues causes it to translocate into the cytosol.
HMGB1 is an intracellular protein that can translocate to the nucleus where it binds DNA and regulates gene expression. It can also be released from cells, in which extracellular form it can bind the inflammatory receptor RAGE (Receptor for Advanced Glycation End-products). Release from cells seems to involve two distinct processes: necrosis, in which case cell membranes are permeabilized and intracellular constituents may diffuse out of the cell; and some form of active or facilitated secretion induced by signaling through the NF-κB.
HMGB1 can interact with TLR ligands and cytokines, and activates cells through the multiple surface receptors including TLR2, TLR4, and RAGE.
Some actions of HMGB1 are mediated through the [[toll-like receptor|toll-like receptors (TLRs)]. Interaction between HMGB1 and TLR4 results in upregulation of NF-κB, which leads to increased production and release of cytokines. HMGB1 is also able to interact with TLR4 on neutrophils to stimulate the production of reactive oxygen species by NADPH oxidase. HMGB1-LPS complex activates TLR4, and causes the binding of adapter proteins (MyD88 and others), leading to signal transduction and the activation of various signaling cascades. The downstream effect of this signaling is to activate MAPK and NF-κB, and thus cause the production of inflammatory molecules such as cytokines.
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