Danger signals: SOS to the immune system

Curr Opin Immunol. 2001 Feb;13(1):114-9. doi: 10.1016/s0952-7915(00)00191-6.


The activation of dendritic cells, necessary for the initiation of primary and secondary immune responses, can be induced by endogenous danger signals - released by tissues undergoing stress, damage or abnormal death - and also by exogenous danger signals elaborated by pathogens. Some endogenous danger signals that recently have been discovered are heat-shock proteins, nucleotides, reactive oxygen intermediates, extracellular-matrix breakdown products, neuromediators and cytokines like the IFNs. We propose that allergy may be initiated by the direct damage of dendritic or other cells by toxic chemicals and allergenic proteases, and suggest that the triggering of danger signal receptors by exogenous pathogen-derived molecules may be more to the advantage of the pathogen than to the host.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Immune System / immunology*
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Immune System / microbiology
  • Immune System / pathology*
  • Models, Immunological
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*