The discovery of host-encoded gene products that sense molecular patterns in infectious microbes, and the demonstration of their role in triggering innate and adaptive immune responses, has been a key milestone in our understanding of immunology. Twenty-three years after Janeway first outlined the fundamental concepts of the 'pattern recognition' model, and 15 years since the identification of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) as pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), new insights continue to be revealed, and questions remain. For example, innate immune responses to microbes that are mediated by PRRs have historically been viewed as the domain of innate immune cell populations such as dendritic cells and macrophages. New evidence, however, has pointed to the role of B-cell-intrinsic TLR activation in shaping antibody responses. These studies have revealed that TLRs regulate a complex transcriptional network that controls multiple steps in the development of antigen-specific antibodies. This review covers these recent developments regarding the role of TLRs in B-cell gene expression and function in vitro and in vivo, and highlights the remaining challenges in the field, with particular emphasis on the role of TLRs in antibody responses to viral infection. A more complete understanding of how TLRs regulate antibody responses will lead to improved vaccine design.
© 2012 The Author. Immunology © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.