Association of Toll-like receptor 4 alleles with symptoms and sensitization to laboratory animals

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008 Nov;122(5):896-902.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2008.08.025. Epub 2008 Oct 4.


Background: Researchers and technicians working with laboratory animals (LAs) are exposed to animal allergen and endotoxin, which can interact to potentiate or inhibit symptoms or allergic responses. We hypothesized that functional genetic variants of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), a key surface receptor for endotoxin, interface between worker and workplace and affect animal sensitization, symptoms, or both.

Objective: We sought to determine whether TLR4/8551 variants alter the risk for LA sensitization, symptoms, or both.

Methods: Three hundred thirty-five researchers, 195 of whom worked with animals, completed questions on workplace practices and symptoms and underwent skin prick tests or RASTs to common and animal allergens. Real-time PCR assessed TLR4/8551 and TLR4/8851 variants. Nominal logistic regression was used to analyze the contribution of demographic, exposure, and genetic variables to outcomes of interest.

Results: Twenty-one percent of workers were LA sensitized, and 29% reported 1 or more symptoms to LAs. The TLR4/8551 G variant, which is less responsive to endotoxin, was detected in 9% and in linkage disequilibrium with the TLR4/8851 T allele. The G variant significantly associated with atopy and LA sensitization. Workers with the G variant spent significantly longer hours in high endotoxin/animal allergen tasks compared with those with the AA variant, which is perhaps less affected by endotoxin exposures. In multivariate analyses the G variant and longer animal research hours increased the risk of LA sensitization. Job tasks and LA sensitization, but not TLR4 variants, were predictors of LA-induced symptoms.

Conclusion: Workers with TLR4 variants that reduce responsiveness to endotoxin have higher risks for LA and other allergen sensitization but spend longer hours in tasks with high endotoxin and animal allergen exposures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Allergens / analysis
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Laboratory / immunology*
  • Endotoxins / immunology
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / genetics*
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Linkage Disequilibrium
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / genetics*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / immunology*
  • Young Adult


  • Allergens
  • Endotoxins
  • TLR4 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4