Molecular Medicine

, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 930–937 | Cite as

HMGB1 Mediates Cognitive Impairment in Sepsis Survivors

  • Sangeeta S Chavan
  • Patricio T Huerta
  • Sergio Robbiati
  • S I Valdes-Ferrer
  • Mahendar Ochani
  • Meghan Dancho
  • Maya Frankfurt
  • Bruce T Volpe
  • Kevin J Tracey
  • Betty Diamond
Research Article


Severe sepsis, a syndrome that complicates infection and injury, affects 750,000 annually in the United States. The acute mortality rate is approximately 30%, but, strikingly, sepsis survivors have a significant disability burden: up to 25% of survivors are cognitively and physically impaired. To investigate the mechanisms underlying persistent cognitive impairment in sepsis survivors, here we developed a murine model of severe sepsis survivors following cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) to study cognitive impairments. We observed that serum levels of high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1), a critical mediator of acute sepsis pathophysiology, are increased in sepsis survivors. Significantly, these levels remain elevated for at least 4 wks after CLP? Sepsis survivors develop significant, persistent impairments in learning and memory, and anatomic changes in the hippocampus associated with a loss of synaptic plasticity. Administration of neutralizing anti-HMGBl antibody to survivors, beginning 1 wk after onset of peritonitis, significantly improved memory impairments and brain pathology. Administration of recombinant HMGB1 to naíve mice recapitulated the memory impairments. Together, these findings indicate that elevated HMGB1 levels mediate cognitive decline in sepsis survivors, and suggest that it may be possible to prevent or reverse cognitive impairments in sepsis survivors by administration of anti-HMGB1 antibodies.



This study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Health (NIGMS GM62508 to KJ Tracey). The authors would like to thank Thomas W Faust and Tomas S Huerta for help in the behavioral assessments, and Roseann Berlin for technical assistance.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Sangeeta S Chavan
    • 1
  • Patricio T Huerta
    • 2
  • Sergio Robbiati
    • 2
  • S I Valdes-Ferrer
    • 1
  • Mahendar Ochani
    • 1
  • Meghan Dancho
    • 1
  • Maya Frankfurt
    • 3
  • Bruce T Volpe
    • 4
  • Kevin J Tracey
    • 1
  • Betty Diamond
    • 5
  1. 1.Laboratorie of Biomedical ScienceThe Feinstein Institute for Medical ResearchManhassetUSA
  2. 2.Laboratorie of Immune and Neural NetworksThe Feinstein Institute for Medical ResearchManhassetUSA
  3. 3.Department of Science EducationHofstra North Shore-LIJ School of MedicineHempsteadUSA
  4. 4.Laboratorie of Functional NeuroanatomyThe Feinstein Institute for Medical ResearchManhassetUSA
  5. 5.Center for Autoimmune and Musculoskeletal DiseasesThe Feinstein Institute for Medical ResearchManhassetUSA

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