Higher animals establish host defense by orchestrating innate and adaptive immunity. This is mediated by professional antigen presenting cells, i.e. dendritic cells (DCs). DCs can incorporate pathogens, produce a variety of cytokines, maturate, and present pathogen-derived peptides to T cells, thereby inducing T cell activation and differentiation. These responses are triggered by microbial recognition through type I transmembrane proteins, Toll-like receptors (TLRs) on DCs. TLRs consist of ten members and each TLR is involved in recognizing a variety of microorganism-derived molecular structures. TLR ligands include cell wall components, proteins, nucleic acids, and synthetic chemical compounds, all of which can activate DCs as immune adjuvants. Each TLR can activate DCs in a similar, but distinct manner. For example, TLRs can be divided into subgroups according to their type I interferon (IFN) inducing ability. TLR2 cannot induce IFN-α or IFN- β, but TLR4 can lead to IFN-β production. Meanwhile, TLR3, TLR7, and TLR9 can induce both IFN-α and IFN-β. Recent evidences suggest that cytoplamic adapters for TLRs are especially crucial for this functional heterogeneity. Clarifying how DC function is regulated by TLRs should provide us with critical information for manipulating the host defense against a variety of diseases.
dendritic cell function, toll-like receptors, dendritic cells, type I transmembrane proteins, interferon
Department of Host Defense, Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University, Suita Osaka 565-0871, Japan.