HIMF (Hypoxia-Induced Mitogenic Factor) Signaling Mediates the HMGB1 (High Mobility Group Box 1)-Dependent Endothelial and Smooth Muscle Cell Crosstalk in Pulmonary Hypertension

Qing Lin, Chunling Fan, Jose Gomez-Arroyo, Katrien Van Raemdonck, Lucas W. Meuchel, John T. Skinner, Allen D. Everett, Xia Fang, Andrew A. Macdonald, Kazuyo Yamaji-Kegan, Roger A. Johns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objective: HIMF (hypoxia-induced mitogenic factor; also known as FIZZ1 [found in inflammatory zone-1] or RELM [resistin-like molecule-α]) is an etiological factor of pulmonary hypertension (PH) in rodents, but its underlying mechanism is unclear. We investigated the immunomodulatory properties of HIMF signaling in PH pathogenesis. Approach and Results: Gene-modified mice that lacked HIMF (KO [knockout]) or overexpressed HIMF human homolog resistin (hResistin) were used for in vivo experiments. The pro-PH role of HIMF was verified in HIMF-KO mice exposed to chronic hypoxia or sugen/hypoxia. Mechanistically, HIMF/hResistin activation triggered the HMGB1 (high mobility group box 1) pathway and RAGE (receptor for advanced glycation end products) in pulmonary endothelial cells (ECs) of hypoxic mouse lungs in vivo and in human pulmonary microvascular ECs in vitro. Treatment with conditioned medium from hResistin-stimulated human pulmonary microvascular ECs induced an autophagic response, BMPR2 (bone morphogenetic protein receptor 2) defects, and subsequent apoptosis-resistant proliferation in human pulmonary artery (vascular) smooth muscle cells in an HMGB1-dependent manner. These effects were confirmed in ECs and smooth muscle cells isolated from pulmonary arteries of patients with idiopathic PH. HIMF/HMGB1/RAGE-mediated autophagy and BMPR2 impairment were also observed in pulmonary artery (vascular) smooth muscle cells of hypoxic mice, effects perhaps related to FoxO1 (forkhead box O1) dampening by HIMF. Experiments in EC-specific hResistin-overexpressing transgenic mice confirmed that EC-derived HMGB1 mediated the hResistin-driven pulmonary vascular remodeling and PH. Conclusions: In HIMF-induced PH, HMGB1-RAGE signaling is pivotal for mediating EC-smooth muscle cell crosstalk. The humanized mouse data further support clinical implications for the HIMF/HMGB1 signaling axis and indicate that hResistin and its downstream pathway may constitute targets for the development of novel anti-PH therapeutics in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2505-2519
Number of pages15
JournalArteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • animals
  • humans
  • mice
  • resistin
  • rodentia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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