Toll-like receptors: the swiss army knife of immunity and vaccine development

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review


Innate immune cells have a critical role in defense against infection and disease. Central to this is the broad specificity with which they can detect pathogen-associated patterns and danger-associated patterns via the pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) they express. Several families of PRRs have been identified including: Toll-like receptors (TLRs), C-type lectin-like receptors, retinoic acid-inducible gene-like receptors and nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain–like receptors. TLRs are one of the most largely studied families of PRRs. The binding of ligands to TLRs on antigen presenting cells (APCs), mainly dendritic cells, leads to APC maturation, induction of inflammatory cytokines and the priming of naive T cells to drive acquired immunity. Therefore, activation of TLRs promotes both innate inflammatory responses and the induction of adaptive immunity. Consequently, in the last two decades mounting evidence has inextricably linked TLR activation with the pathogenesis of immune diseases and cancer. It has become advantageous to harness these aspects of TLR signaling therapeutically to accelerate and enhance the induction of vaccine-specific responses and also target TLRs with the use of biologics and small molecule inhibitors for the treatment of disease. In these respects, TLRs may be considered a ‘Swiss Army’ knife of the immune system, ready to respond in a multitude of infectious and disease states. Here we describe the latest advances in TLR-targeted therapeutics and the use of TLR ligands as vaccine adjuvants.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere85
Number of pages10
JournalClinical & Translational Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Cite this