Association between carotid plaque vulnerability and high mobility group box-1 serum levels in a diabetic population

Federico Biscetti, Giovanni Tinelli, Maria Margherita Rando, Elisabetta Nardella, Andrea Leonardo Cecchini, Flavia Angelini, Giuseppe Straface, Gianluca Straface, Marco Filipponi, Vincenzo Arena, Dario Pitocco, Antonio Gasbarrini, Massimo Massetti, Andrea Flex

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Carotid atherosclerosis represents one of the complications of diabetes mellitus. In particular, plaque instability contributes to disease progression and stroke incidence. High mobility group box-1 (HMGB1) is a nuclear protein involved in promotion and progression of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases. The aim of this study was to analyze the relationship between HMGB1 serum levels, main inflammatory cytokines, the presence of internal carotid stenosis and unstable plaque in a diabetic population. Research design and methods: We studied 873 diabetic patients, including 347 patients with internal carotid artery stenosis (ICAS) who underwent carotid endarterectomy and 526 diabetic patients without internal carotid artery stenosis (WICAS). At baseline, HMGB1 and the main inflammatory cytokines serum levels were evaluated. For ICAS patients, the histological features of carotid plaque were also collected to differentiate them in patients with stable or unstable atherosclerotic lesions. Results: We found that HMGB1 serum levels, osteoprotegerin, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6, were significantly higher in diabetic ICAS patients compared to diabetic WICAS patients. Among ICAS patients, individuals with unstable plaque had higher levels of these cytokines, compared to patients with stable plaque. A multivariable stepwise logistic regression analysis showed that HMGB1 and osteoprotegerin remained independently associated with unstable plaque in ICAS patients. Conclusions: The present study demonstrated that HMGB1 is an independent risk factor for carotid plaque vulnerability in an Italian population with diabetes mellitus, representing a promising biomarker of carotid plaque instability and a possible molecular target to treat unstable carotid plaques and to prevent stroke.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-114
Number of pages1
JournalCardiovascular Diabetology
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Diabetes mellitus
  • High mobility group box-1 (HMGB1)
  • Internal carotid artery stenosis (ICAS)


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