The Role of High Mobility Group Box 1 Protein in Interleukin-18-Induced Myofibroblastic Transition of Valvular Interstitial Cells

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Increased levels of interleukin-18 (IL-18) and high mobility group box 1 protein (HMGB1) have been reported in patients with calcific aortic valve disease (CAVD). However, the role of IL-18 and HMGB1 in the modulation of the valvular interstitial cell (VIC) phenotype remains unclear. We hypothesized that HMGB1 mediates IL-18-induced myofibroblastic transition of VICs.


The expression of IL-18, HMGB1 and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) in human aortic valves was evaluated by immunohistochemical staining, real-time polymerase chain reaction and immunoblotting. Plasma concentrations of IL-18 and HMGB1 were measured using the ELISA kit. Cultured human aortic VICs were used as an in vitro model.


Immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting revealed increased levels of IL-18, HMGB1 and α-SMA in calcific valves. Circulating IL-18 and HMGB1 levels were also higher in CAVD patients. In vitro, IL-18 induced upregulation of HMGB1 and α-SMA in VICs. Moreover, IL-18 induced secretion of HMGB1 to the extracellular space and activation of nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-κB). Blockade of NF-κB abrogated the upregulation and release of HMGB1 induced by IL-18. Whereas HMGB1 inhibition attenuated the IL-18-induced expression of α-SMA, HMGB1 enhanced the effect of IL-18.


We demonstrated for the first time that both tissue and plasma levels of IL-18 and HMGB1 were increased in patients with CAVD. Mechanically, HMGB1 mediated IL-18-induced VIC myofibroblastic transition.

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