Innate immune function by Toll-like receptors: distinct responses in newborns and the elderly

Immunity. 2012 Nov 16;37(5):771-83. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2012.10.014.


Given the "inborn" nature of the innate immune system, it is surprising to find that innate immune function does in fact change with age. Similar patterns of distinct Toll-like-receptor-mediated immune responses come to light when one contrasts innate immune development at the beginning of life with that toward the end of life. Importantly, these developmental patterns of innate cytokine responses correlate with clinical patterns of susceptibility to disease: A heightened risk of suffering from excessive inflammation is often detected in prematurely born infants, disappears over the first few months of life, and reappears toward the end of life. In addition, risk periods for particular infections in early life reemerge in older adults. The near-mirror-image patterns that emerge in contrasts of early versus late innate immune ontogeny emphasize changes in host-environment interactions as the underlying molecular and teleologic drivers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Toll-Like Receptors / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Toll-Like Receptors