Tumor angiogenesis is enforced by autocrine regulation of high-mobility group box 1

J. R. van Beijnum, P. Nowak-Sliwinska, E. van den Boezem, P. Hautvast, W. A. Buurman, A. W. Griffioen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The endothelium plays a pivotal role in the progression of solid tumors and is considered a highly relevant target for therapy. However, it emerges that current clinical angiogenesis inhibitors that act through inhibition of tumor-derived growth factors are prone to inducing drug resistance. Therefore, markers of tumor endothelial cells (ECs) themselves provide attractive novel therapeutic targets. In a screen for markers of tumor angiogenesis, we recently identified high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1), known to act as proinflamnnatory cytokine and chromatin-binding molecule. Here we report on the role of HMGB1 in angiogenesis by showing that its overexpression is associated with an increased angiogenic potential of ECs. HMGB1 stimulates the expression of players in vascular endothelial growth factor and platelet-derived growth factor signaling, both in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, we show that HMGB1 triggers and helps to sustain this proangiogenic gene expression program in ECs, additionally characterized by increased activity of matrix metalloproteinases, integrins and nuclear factor-kappa B. Moreover, we found that HMGB1 is involved in several autocrine and/or paracrine feedback mechanisms resulting in positive enforcement of HMGB1 expression, and that of its receptors, RAGE (receptor for advanced glycation end products) and Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). Interference in HMGB1 expression and/or function using knockdown approaches and antibody-mediated targeting to break this vicious circle resulted in inhibited migration and sprouting of ECs. Using different in vivo models, therapeutic efficacy of HMGB1 targeting was confirmed. First, we demonstrated induction of HMGB1 expression in the chicken embryo chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) neovasculature following both photodynannic therapy and tumor challenge. We subsequently showed that anti-HMGB1 antibodies inhibited vessel density in both models, accompanied by a reduced vascular expression of angiogenic growth factor receptors. Collectively, these data identify HMGB1 as an important modulator of tumor angiogenesis and suggest the feasibility of targeting HMGB1 for multi-level cancer treatment. Oncogene (2013) 32, 363-374; doi:10.1038/onc.2012.49; published online 5 March 2012
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-374
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2013


  • high-mobility group box 1
  • tumor angiogenesis
  • chicken embryo chorioallantoic membrane
  • VEGF
  • autocrine


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