Human TLR1 deficiency is associated with impaired mycobacterial signaling and protection from leprosy reversal reaction

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2008 May 7;2(5):e231. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0000231.


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are important regulators of the innate immune response to pathogens, including Mycobacterium leprae, which is recognized by TLR1/2 heterodimers. We previously identified a transmembrane domain polymorphism, TLR1_T1805G, that encodes an isoleucine to serine substitution and is associated with impaired signaling. We hypothesized that this TLR1 SNP regulates the innate immune response and susceptibility to leprosy. In HEK293 cells transfected with the 1805T or 1805G variant and stimulated with extracts of M. leprae, NF-kappaB activity was impaired in cells with the 1805G polymorphism. We next stimulated PBMCs from individuals with different genotypes for this SNP and found that 1805GG individuals had significantly reduced cytokine responses to both whole irradiated M. leprae and cell wall extracts. To investigate whether TLR1 variation is associated with clinical presentations of leprosy or leprosy immune reactions, we examined 933 Nepalese leprosy patients, including 238 with reversal reaction (RR), an immune reaction characterized by a Th1 T cell cytokine response. We found that the 1805G allele was associated with protection from RR with an odds ratio (OR) of 0.51 (95% CI 0.29-0.87, p = 0.01). Individuals with 1805 genotypes GG or TG also had a reduced risk of RR in comparison to genotype TT with an OR of 0.55 (95% CI 0.31-0.97, p = 0.04). To our knowledge, this is the first association of TLR1 with a Th1-mediated immune response. Our findings suggest that TLR1 deficiency influences adaptive immunity during leprosy infection to affect clinical manifestations such as nerve damage and disability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cell Line
  • Female
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / genetics
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Leprosy / genetics*
  • Leprosy / immunology*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium leprae / immunology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 1 / genetics*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 1 / physiology*


  • Toll-Like Receptor 1