High Mobility Group Box 1/Toll-like Receptor Danger Signaling Increases Brain Neuroimmune Activation in Alcohol Dependence


Fulton T. Crews, Liya Qin, Donna Sheedy, Ryan P. Vetreno, Jian Zou


Innate immune gene expression is regulated in part through high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1), an endogenous proinflammatory cytokine, that activates multiple members of the interleukin-1/Toll-like receptor (TLR) family associated with danger signaling. We investigated expression of HMGB1, TLR2, TLR3, and TLR4 in chronic ethanol-treated mouse brain, postmortem human alcoholic brain, and rat brain slice culture to test the hypothesis that neuroimmune activation in alcoholic brain involves ethanol activation of HMGB1/TLR danger signaling. Protein levels were assessed using Western blot, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and immunohistochemical immunoreactivity (+IR), and messenger RNA (mRNA) levels were measured by real time polymerase chain reaction in ethanol-treated mice (5 g/kg/day, intragastric, 10 days + 24 hours), rat brain slice culture, and postmortem human alcoholic brain. Ethanol treatment of mice increased brain mRNA and +IR protein expression of HMGB1, TLR2, TLR3, and TLR4. Postmortem human alcoholic brain also showed increased HMGB1, TLR2, TLR3, and TLR4 +IR cells that correlated with lifetime alcohol consumption, as well as each other. Ethanol treatment of brain slice culture released HMGB1 into the media and induced the proinflammatory cytokine, interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β). Neutralizing antibodies to HMGB1 and small inhibitory mRNA to HMGB1 or TLR4 blunted ethanol induction of IL-1β. Ethanol-induced HMGB1/TLR signaling contributes to induction of the proinflammatory cytokine, IL-1β. Increased expression of HMGB1, TLR2, TLR3, and TLR4 in alcoholic brain and in mice treated with ethanol suggests that chronic alcohol-induced brain neuroimmune activation occurs through HMGB1/TLR signaling.