Toll-like receptors (TLRs) mediate immune recognition of both microbial infections and tissue damage. Aberrant TLR signaling promotes disease; thus, understanding the regulation of TLR signaling is of medical relevance. Although downstream mediators of TLR signaling have been identified, the detailed mechanism by which ligand binding-mediated dimerization induces downstream signaling remains poorly understood. Here, we investigate this question for TLR4, which mediates responsiveness to bacterial LPS and drives inflammatory disease. TLR4 exhibits structural and functional features that are unique among TLRs, including responsiveness to a wide variety of ligands. However, the connection between these structural features and the regulation of signaling is not clear. Here, we investigated how the unique intracellular structures of TLR4 contribute to receptor signaling. Key conclusions include the following. 1) The unique intracellular linker of TLR4 is important for achieving LPS-inducible signaling via Toll/IL-1 receptor (TIR) domain-containing adapter-inducing interferon-β(TRIF) but less so for signaling via myeloid differentiation primary response 88 (MyD88). 2) Membrane-bound TLR4 TIR domains were sufficient to induce signaling. However, introducing long, flexible intracellular linkers neither induced constitutive signaling nor ablated LPS-inducible signaling. Thus, the initiation of TLR4 signaling is regulated by a mechanism that does not require tight geometric constraints. Together, these observations necessitate refining the model of TLR4 signal initiation. We hypothesize that TLR4 may interact with an inhibitory partner in the absence of ligand, via both TIR and extracellular domains of TLR4. In this speculative model, ligand binding induces dissociation of the inhibitory partner, triggering spontaneous, switchlike TIR domain homodimerization to initiate downstream signaling.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology