DNA-mediated proteolysis by neutrophil elastase enhances binding activities of the HMGB1 protein

Xi Wang, Marlen Mayorga-Flores, Karina G. Bien, Aaron O. Bailey, Junji Iwahara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) are produced through ejection of genomic DNA by neutrophils into extracellular space and serve as a weapon to fight against pathogens. Neutrophil elastase, a serine protease loaded on NETs, attacks and kills pathogens, while extracellular high-mobility-group-box-1 (HMGB1) protein serves as a danger signal to other cells. How the action of these factors is coordinated as part of the innate immune response is not fully understood. In this article, using biochemical and biophysical approaches, we demonstrate that DNA mediates specific proteolysis of HMGB1 by neutrophil elastase and that the proteolytic processing remarkably enhances binding activities of extracellular HMGB1. Through the DNA-mediated proteolysis of HMGB1 by neutrophil elastase, the negatively charged segment containing D/E repeats is removed from HMGB1. This proteolytic removal of the C-terminal tail causes a substantial increase in binding activities of HMGB1 because the D/E repeats are crucial for dynamic autoinhibition via electrostatic interactions. Our data on the oxidized HMGB1 (i.e., ‘disulfide HMGB1’) protein show that the truncation substantially increases HMGB1's affinities for the toll-like receptor TLR4•MD-2 complex, DNA G-quadruplex, and the Holliday junction DNA structure. The DNA-mediated proteolysis of HMGB1 by neutrophil elastase in NETs may promote the function of extracellular HMGB1 as a damage-associated molecular pattern that triggers the innate immune response of nearby cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102577
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • DNA–protein interaction
  • NMR
  • fluorescence anisotropy
  • protease
  • protein processing
  • toll-like receptor 4

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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