Toll-like receptor signaling in neonatal sepsis and inflammation: a matter of orchestration and conditioning

Expert Rev Clin Immunol. 2013 Dec;9(12):1239-52. doi: 10.1586/1744666X.2013.857275.


Altered neonatal Toll-like receptor (TLR) function is hypothesized to contribute to the heightened susceptibility to infection and perpetuated inflammation in term and preterm neonates, clinically evident in neonatal sepsis and increased rates of inflammatory disorders. Current data indicate that basal TLR expression in term neonates equals adult expression patterns, while expression in preterm infants seems to increase, depending on gestational age. Regarding TLR signaling, some studies suggest TLR incompetence in neonates associated with impaired pro-inflammatory responses, others describe neonatal TLR function well developed and allude to its hyper-inflammation tendency. We discuss the competing positions and considerable limitations of research approaches and conclude that neonatal innate immunity is not generally less able to respond to TLR stimulation. Moreover, we describe pre-conditioning factors other than immaturity having a comparable impact. In the long term, better understanding of the complex interplay of pre- and postnatal conditions and maturation-dependent neonatal TLR function may provide new therapeutic approaches.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / immunology*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Sepsis / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Toll-Like Receptors / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism*


  • Toll-Like Receptors