TLR2 - promiscuous or specific? A critical re-evaluation of a receptor expressing apparent broad specificity

Immunobiology. 2008;213(3-4):205-24. doi: 10.1016/j.imbio.2008.02.005. Epub 2008 Mar 28.


Of all pattern recognition receptors (PRR) in innate immunity, Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) recognizes the structurally broadest range of different bacterial compounds known as pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). TLR2 agonists identified so far are lipopolysaccharides (LPSs) from different bacterial strains, lipoproteins, (synthetic) lipopeptides, lipoarabinomannans, lipomannans, glycosylphosphatidylinositol, lipoteichoic acids (LTA), various proteins including lipoproteins and glycoproteins, zymosan, and peptidoglycan (PG). Because these molecules are structurally diverse, it seems unlikely that TLR2 has the capability to react with all agonists to the same degree. The aim of this review is to identify and describe well-defined structure-function relationships for TLR2. Because of its biomedical importance and because its genetics and biochemistry are presently most completely known among all Gram-positive bacteria, we have chosen Staphylococcus aureus as a focus. Our data together with those reported by other groups reveal that only lipoproteins/lipopeptides are sensed at physiologically concentrations by TLR2 at picomolar levels. This finding implies that the activity of all other putative bacterial compounds so far reported as TLR2 agonists was most likely due to contaminating highly active natural lipoproteins and/or lipopeptides.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbohydrate Sequence
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Ligands
  • Lipopolysaccharides / chemistry
  • Lipopolysaccharides / metabolism
  • Lipoproteins / metabolism
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptidoglycan / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism
  • Teichoic Acids / chemistry
  • Teichoic Acids / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / chemistry
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / physiology*


  • Ligands
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Lipoproteins
  • Peptidoglycan
  • Teichoic Acids
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2
  • lipoteichoic acid