The NLR network and the immunological disease continuum of adaptive and innate immune-mediated inflammation against self

Semin Immunopathol. 2007 Sep;29(3):303-13. doi: 10.1007/s00281-007-0084-1. Epub 2007 Sep 6.


The nucleotide-binding domain, leucine-rich repeat containing family (NLR) network has provided pivotal genetic and molecular insights into diseases that were hitherto regarded as autoimmune. The NLR-related disorders include rare monogenic autoinflammatory diseases collectively termed cryopyrin-associated periodic syndromes, Crohn's disease which is a common polygenic disease and also an association at the mechanistic level with gout and pseudogout. Unlike the classical autoimmune diseases where disease immunopathogenesis is played out primarily in the primary and secondary lymphoid organs, the immunopathogenesis of the NLR-related disorders is played out in the tissues where inflammation arises. As the genetic mutations or molecular cascades associated with the NLR-related disorders have a widespread cellular distribution, it has been somewhat enigmatic why these disorders attack certain territories, but not others. This implies that tissue-specific factors in the target organs themselves contribute to disease expression. Such examples include the high abundance of NOD2 expressing cells in the part of the gut most typically afflicted by Crohn's disease and the preferential deposition of crystals in the joints to where inflammation localises in gout and pseudogout. The NLR network is associated principally with increases in TNF or IL-1 production, both of which are key players in innate immunity. Therefore, the NLR network identifies at the genetic and molecular level a robust paradigm for innate immune activation against self. This tissue-specific-factor-associated inflammation is the diametric opposite of classical autoimmunity. Of note, the MHC class-I-associated diseases including psoriasis (HLA-Cw6) and ankylosing spondylitis (HLA-B27) show striking clinical overlaps with Crohn's disease and also some rare monogenic diseases. Thus, the NLR innate immune pathway allows the full spectrum of inflammation against self to be viewed along an immunological disease continuum with autoantibody-associated disease at one end, innate immune diseases at the other and MHC class-1-related disorders as an intermediate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Self Tolerance / immunology*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing