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A High-Sensitivity Method for Detection and Measurement of HMGB1 Protein Concentration by High-Affinity Binding to DNA Hemicatenanes

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002855
  • Research Article
  • Immunology
  • Biochemistry/Biomacromolecule-Ligand Interactions
  • Cell Biology/Cell Signaling
  • Cell Biology/Nuclear Structure And Function
  • Critical Care And Emergency Medicine/Sepsis And Multiple Organ Failure
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Background Protein HMGB1, an abundant nuclear non-histone protein that interacts with DNA and has an architectural function in chromatin, was strikingly shown some years ago to also possess an extracellular function as an alarmin and a mediator of inflammation. This extracellular function has since been actively studied, both from a fundamental point of view and in relation to the involvement of HMGB1 in inflammatory diseases. A prerequisite for such studies is the ability to detect HMGB1 in blood or other biological fluids and to accurately measure its concentration. Methodology/Principal Findings In addition to classical techniques (western blot, ELISA) that make use of specific anti-HMGB1 antibodies, we present here a new, extremely sensitive technique that is based on the fact that hemicatenated DNA loops (hcDNA) bind HMGB1 with extremely high affinity, higher than the affinity of specific antibodies, similar in that respect to DNA aptamers. DNA-protein complexes formed between HMGB1 and radiolabeled hcDNA are analyzed by electrophoresis on nondenaturing polyacrylamide gels using the band-shift assay method. In addition, using a simple and fast protocol to purify HMGB1 on the basis of its solubility in perchloric acid allowed us to increase the sensitivity by suppressing any nonspecific background. The technique can reliably detect HMGB1 at a concentration of 1 pg per microliter in complex fluids such as serum, and at much lower concentrations in less complex samples. It compares favorably with ELISA in terms of sensitivity and background, and is less prone to interference from masking proteins in serum. Conclusion The new technique, which illustrates the potential of DNA nanoobjects and aptamers to form high-affinity complexes with selected proteins, should provide a valuable tool to further investigate the extracellular functions of HMGB1 and its involvement in inflammatory pathologies.

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