The intracellular protein HMGB1 is released from cells and acts as a damage-associated molecular pattern molecule during many diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); however, the intracellular function of HMGB1 during inflammation is poorly understood. Here, we demonstrated that cytosolic HMGB1 regulates apoptosis by protecting the autophagy proteins beclin 1 and ATG5 from calpain-mediated cleavage during inflammation. Colitis in mice with an intestinal epithelial cell–specific Hmgb1 deletion and patients with IBD were both characterized by increased calpain activation, beclin 1 and ATG5 cleavage, and intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) death compared with controls. In vitro cleavage assays and studies of enteroids verified that HMGB1 protects beclin 1 and ATG5 from calpain-mediated cleavage events that generate proapoptotic protein fragments. Together, our results indicate that HMGB1 is essential for mitigating the extent and severity of inflammation-associated cellular injury by controlling the switch between the proautophagic and proapoptotic functions of beclin 1 and ATG5 during inflammation. Moreover, these studies demonstrate that HMGB1 is pivotal for reducing tissue injury in IBD and other complex inflammatory disorders.
Xiaorong Zhu, Jeannette S. Messer, Yunwei Wang, Fanfei Lin, Candace M. Cham, Jonathan Chang, Timothy R. Billiar, Michael T. Lotze, David L. Boone, Eugene B. Chang
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