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Identification of hemopexin as an anti-inflammatory factor that inhibits synergy of hemoglobin with HMGB1 in sterile and infectious inflammation

Lin, T;Sammy, F;Yang, H;Thundivalappil, S;Hellman, J;Tracey, KJ;Warren, HS;

Hemoglobin is released from lysed RBCs in numerous clinical settings. High mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) is a nuclear and cytosolic DNA-binding protein released from injured cells that has been shown to play an important role in inducing inflammation. Because both of these endogenous molecules are frequently present in sites of necrosis and inflammation, we studied their interaction on the activation of macrophages. We report in this article that hemoglobin and HMGB1 synergize to activate mouse macrophages to release significantly increased proinflammatory cytokines. Addition of microbial ligands that activate through TLR2 or TLR4 resulted in further significant increases, in a three-way synergy between endogenous and microbial ligands. The synergy was strongly suppressed by hemopexin (Hx), an endogenous heme-binding plasma protein. The findings suggest that hemoglobin may play an important role in sterile and infectious inflammation, and that endogenous Hx can modulate this response. Administration of Hx may be beneficial in clinical settings characterized by elevated extracellular hemoglobin and HMGB1.