The SYK side of TLR4: signalling mechanisms in response to LPS and minimally oxidized LDL

Br J Pharmacol. 2012 Nov;167(5):990-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2012.02097.x.


Spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) is the best known for its involvement in immune receptor signalling, mediated by binding of SYK tandem Src-homology 2 domains to tandem phosphotyrosine in immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motifs (ITAMs). ITAM adaptors or ITAM-containing receptor tails mediate signalling from B- and T-cell receptors, Fc receptors and many C-type lectins, including dectin-1. Recent data point to constitutive binding of SYK to the cytoplasmic domain of toll-like receptor-4 (TLR4). This SYK-TLR4 binding increases upon TLR4 dimerization and phosphorylation, and SYK plays a prominent role in TLR4 signalling in response to LPS in neutrophils and monocytes. SYK also plays an important role in TLR4-mediated macrophage responses to minimally oxidized low-density lipoprotein (mmLDL), which is a form of oxidized LDL relevant to development of human atherosclerosis. Interestingly, mmLDL-induced effects in macrophages, which occur via TLR4, are predominantly MyD88 independent. This unmasks the role of the SYK branch of TLR4 signalling, which mediates modest cytokine release via activation of AP-1 transcription and robust reactive oxygen species generation and cytoskeletal rearrangements. The latter results in extensive membrane ruffling and macropinocytosis, leading to lipoprotein uptake and foam cell formation, a hallmark of atherosclerotic lesions. Because inhibitors of SYK activity, such as fostamatinib, are in advanced clinical trials for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, understanding the role of SYK in signalling via TLR4 is of immediate importance. This signalling pathway seems to be particularly important in TLR4 activation by host-derived, damage-associated molecular pattern ligands, such as mmLDL, relevant to development of atherosclerosis and other chronic inflammatory diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / immunology*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / immunology*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Syk Kinase
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / immunology*


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • oxidized low density lipoprotein
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • SYK protein, human
  • Syk Kinase