In the past few years there has been an increasing appreciation of the importance of Toll-like receptors (TLRs), not just in immunity, but also in autoimmune diseases. TLRs were first identified as sensors of viral and bacterial pathogens that form an integral part of the innate immune response. It was later discovered that these receptors can also respond to endogenous ligands that are produced as a result of tissue damage. This leads to the hypothesis that TLRs may be key contributors to the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory conditions. A large body of data supporting the role of TLRs in autoimmunity has emerged from animal models and more data is increasingly being generated from human studies as further tools to examine these receptors have become available. Developing strategies to manipulate TLR function is of great interest in autoimmunity, as well as other diseases that include allergy and cancer. This review explores the evidence that points to a role for TLRs in autoimmunity and highlights some of the potential ways in which modulation of their action may yield clinical benefits.
Keywords: Toll-like receptors, lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, antagonist, therapies
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