Toll-like receptor polymorphisms, inflammatory and infectious diseases, allergies, and cancer

J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2013 Sep;33(9):467-84. doi: 10.1089/jir.2012.0140. Epub 2013 May 15.


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are germ-line-encoded innate immune sensors that recognize conserved microbial structures and host alarmins and signal expression of MHC proteins, costimulatory molecules, and inflammatory mediators by macrophages, neutrophils, dendritic cells, and other cell types. These processes activate immediate and early mechanisms of innate host defense, as well as initiate and orchestrate adaptive immune responses. Several single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the TLR genes have been associated with altered susceptibility to infectious, inflammatory, and allergic diseases, and have been found to play a role in tumorigenesis. Critical advances in our understanding of innate immune functions and genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have uncovered complex interactions of genetic polymorphisms within TLRs and environmental factors. However, conclusions obtained in the course of such analyses are restricted by limited power of many studies that is likely to explain controversial findings. Further, linkages to certain ethnic backgrounds, gender, and the presence of multigenic effects further complicate the interpretations of how the TLR SNPs affect immune responses. For many TLRs, the molecular mechanisms by which SNPs impact receptor functions remain unknown. In this review, I have summarized current knowledge about the TLR polymorphisms, their impact on TLR signaling, and associations with various inflammatory, infectious, allergic diseases and cancers, and discussed the directions of future scientific research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communicable Diseases / genetics*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / genetics*
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Inflammation / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition / genetics
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Toll-Like Receptors / genetics*
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism


  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition
  • Toll-Like Receptors