Background: Noninvasive biomarkers of high- and low-grade intestinal inflammation and of mucosal healing (MH) in patients with inflammatory bowel disease are currently lacking. We have recently shown that fecal high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) protein is a novel biomarker of gut inflammation. We aimed at investigating in a mouse model if HMGB1 was able to foresee both a clinically evident and a subclinical gut inflammation and if its normalization indicated MH. We also aimed at confirming the results in patients with Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis.
Methods: C57BL6/J mice were treated with increasing doses of dextran sodium sulphate to induce colitis of different severity degrees; 28 with CD, 23 with ulcerative colitis, and 17 controls were also enrolled. Fecal HMGB1 was analyzed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunoblotting.
Results: Fecal HMGB1 increased by 5-, 11-, 18-, and 24-folds with dextran sodium sulphate doses of 0.25%, 0.50%, 1%, and 4%, respectively, showing that the protein detected a high-grade and a subclinical inflammation. After a recovery time of 4-week posttreatment, HMGB1 returned to control levels, paralleling MH. In patients, fecal HMGB1 significantly correlated with endoscopic indexes (Simple Endoscopic Score for Crohn's Disease [SES-CD], endoscopic Mayo subscore), but not with the disease activity indexes (Crohn's disease Activity Index, partial Mayo score).
Conclusions: Fecal HMGB1 is a robust noninvasive biomarker of clinically overt and subclinical gut inflammation; it can also be a surrogate marker of MH. We suggest the use of fecal HMGB1 to monitor the disease course and assess therapy outcomes in inflammatory bowel disease.