The innate immunity of the central nervous system in chronic pain: the role of Toll-like receptors

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2007 May;64(9):1128-36. doi: 10.1007/s00018-007-6494-3.


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are a family of pattern recognition receptors that mediate innate immune responses to stimuli from pathogens or endogenous signals. Under various pathological conditions, the central nervous system (CNS) mounts a well-organized innate immune response, in which glial cells, in particular microglia, are activated. Further, the innate immune system has emerged as a promising target for therapeutic control of development and persistence of chronic pain. Especially, microglial cells respond to peripheral and central infection, injury, and other stressor signals arriving at the CNS and initiate a CNS immune activation that might contribute to chronic pain facilitation. In the orchestration of this limited immune reaction, TLRs on microglia appear to be most relevant in triggering and tailoring microglial activation, which might be a driving force of chronic pain. New therapeutic approaches targeting the CNS innate immune system may achieve the essential pharmacological control of chronic pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System / immunology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Morphine / therapeutic use
  • Pain / immunology*
  • Pain / pathology
  • Toll-Like Receptors / physiology*


  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Morphine