The microbial and danger signals that activate Nod-like receptors

Cytokine. 2008 Sep;43(3):368-73. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2008.07.013. Epub 2008 Aug 19.


Nod-like receptors (NLRs) are a family of intracellular sensors that play key roles in innate immunity and inflammation. While some NLRs, including Nod1, Nod2, NAIP and IPAF, detect conserved bacterial molecular signatures from within the host cytosol, other members of this family seem to have evolved the capacity to sense danger signals perhaps independently of a microbial trigger. This is illustrated by the discovery that Nalp3 and Nalp1 are specifically activated by low concentrations of intracellular potassium. The fact that several stimuli, including bacterial toxins and some viruses, but also sterile crystals made of uric acid, asbestos or aluminium hydroxide, can trigger the Nalp3 inflammasome illustrate the fascinating prospect that microbial infections and certain danger signals may be perceived similarly by host recognition systems. Gaining insight into the function of NLR proteins in general will impact considerably on our understanding of the mechanisms underlying immunity to infection, adjuvanticity and auto-inflammatory disorders. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on the microbial- and danger-derived signals that activate NLRs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / physiology
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / physiology
  • CARD Signaling Adaptor Proteins / physiology
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology
  • Flagellin / analysis
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • NLR Proteins
  • Nod Signaling Adaptor Proteins / physiology*
  • Peptidoglycan / analysis


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • CARD Signaling Adaptor Proteins
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • NLR Proteins
  • NLRC4 protein, human
  • NLRP1 protein, human
  • NLRP3 protein, human
  • Nod Signaling Adaptor Proteins
  • Peptidoglycan
  • Flagellin