Background: Cluster of differentiation 36 (CD36) is a transmembrane glycoprotein involved in many biological processes, such as platelet biology, angiogenesis and in the aetiopathology of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are one of the most important receptors of the innate immune system. Their main function is the recognition of conserved structure of microorganisms. This recognition triggers signaling pathways that activate transcription of cytokines and co-stimulatory molecules which participate in the generation of an immune response against microbes. In particular, TLR2 has been shown to recognize a broad range of ligands. Recently, we showed that CD36 serves as a co-receptor for TLR2 and enhances recognition of specific diacylglycerides derived from bacteria.
Methodology/ principal findings: Here, we investigate the mechanism by which CD36 contributes to ligand recognition and activation of TLR2 signaling pathway. We show that the ectodomain of murine CD36 (mCD36ED) directly interacts with negatively charged diacylglycerol ligands, which explains the specificity and selectivity of CD36 as a TLR2 co-receptor. We also show that mCD36ED amplifies the pro-inflammatory response to lipoteichoic acid in macrophages of wild-type mice and restores the pro-inflammatory response of macrophages from mice deficient in CD36 (oblivious), but not from mice deficient in cluster of differentiation 14 (CD14) (heedless). CONCLUSION/ SIGNIFICANCE: These data indicate that the CD36 ectodomain is the only relevant domain for activation of TLR2 signaling pathway and that CD36 and CD14 have a non-redundant role for loading ligands onto TLR2 in the plasma-membrane. The pro-inflammatory role of soluble CD36 can be relevant in the activation of the immune response against pathogens, as well as in the progression of chronic diseases. Therefore, an increased level of soluble forms of CD36, which has been reported to be increased in type II diabetic patients, could accelerate atherosclerosis by increasing the pro-inflammatory response to diacylglycerol ligands.