Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are a family of key proteins that permit mammals to detect microbes and endogenous molecules, which are present in body fluids, cell membranes and cytoplasm. They confer mechanisms to the host for maintaining homeostasis, activating innate immunity and inducing signals that lead to the activation of adaptive immunity. TLR signalling induces the expression of pro-inflammatory and anti-viral genes through different and intricate pathways. However, persistent signalling can be dangerous and all members of the TLR family are involved in the pathogenesis of acute and chronic inflammation, autoimmunity, allergy, cancer and aging. The pharmaceutical industry has begun intensive work developing novel immunotherapeutic approaches based on both activation and inhibition of TLR triggering. Further, clinical trials are pending to evaluate TLR agonists as novel vaccine adjuvants and for the treatment of infectious diseases, allergic diseases and asthma. Since systemic, metabolic and neuroendocrine changes are elicited by inflammation, TLR activity is susceptible of regulation by hormones and neuroendocrine factors. Neuroendocrine mediators are important players in modulating different phases of TLR regulation contributing to the endogenous control of homeostasis through local, regional and systemic routes. Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) is an important signal molecule of the neuroendocrine-immune network that has recently emerged as a potential candidate for the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders by controlling innate and adaptive immunity. This review shows current advances in the understanding of TLR modulation by VIP that could contribute to the use of this natural peptide as a therapeutic tool.
Keywords: TLR, neuropeptides, VIP, autoimmunity, inflammation, immunotherapy, drug design
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