Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are the major cell-surface initiators of inflammatory responses to pathogens. They bind a wide variety of pathogenic substances through their ectodomains (ECDs). Here, we ask: what is the structural basis for this interaction? Toll-like receptor ECDs comprise 19-25 tandem copies of a motif known as the leucine-rich repeat (LRR). No X-ray structure of a TLR-ECD is currently available but there are several high-resolution LRR-containing proteins that can be used to model TLRs. We suggest that the basic framework of TLRs is a horseshoe-shaped solenoid that contains an extensive beta-sheet on its concave surface, and numerous ligand-binding insertions. Together, these insertions and the beta-sheet could provide a binding surface that is 10-fold greater in area than binding surfaces in antibodies and T-cell receptors.