Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play a crucial role in innate immunity by recognizing conserved motifs predominantly found in microorganisms. Increasing evidence supports a role for TLRs in sterile inflammation as observed in neurodegenerative disorders. This includes work suggesting a contribution for these receptors to the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD), and related disorders. In this review, the potential role of TLRs in the context of protein aggregation, neuronal degeneration, and genetic risk factors is addressed. In particular, we discuss the evidence derived from experimental models of both AD and PD which suggests that activation of TLRs can have beneficial and detrimental effects on pathological features such as protein aggregation and neuronal death. A deeper understanding of these dichotomous observations could be used for therapeutic benefit.
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