Beyond dsRNA: Toll-like receptor 3 signalling in RNA-induced immune responses

Biochem J. 2014 Mar 1;458(2):195-201. doi: 10.1042/BJ20131492.


The innate immune system recognizes pathogen- and damage-associated molecular patterns using pattern-recognition receptors that activate a wide range of signalling cascades to maintain host homoeostasis against infection and inflammation. Endosomal TLR3 (Toll-like receptor 3), a type I transmembrane protein, senses RNAs derived from cells with viral infection or sterile tissue damage, leading to the induction of type I interferon and cytokine production, as well as dendritic cell maturation. It has been accepted that TLR3 recognizes perfect dsRNA, but little has been addressed experimentally with regard to the structural features of virus- or host-derived RNAs that activate TLR3. Recently, a TLR3 agonist was identified, which was a virus-derived 'structured' RNA with incomplete stem structures. Both dsRNA and structured RNA are similarly internalized through clathrin- and raftlin-dependent endocytosis and delivered to endosomal TLR3. The dsRNA uptake machinery, in addition to TLR3, is critical for extracellular viral RNA-induced immune responses. A wide spectrum of TLR3 ligand structures beyond dsRNA and their delivery systems provide new insights into the physiological role of TLR3 in virus- or host-derived RNA-induced immune responses. In the present paper, we focus on the system for extracellular recognition of RNA and its delivery to TLR3.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • RNA / immunology*
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • RNA Viruses / immunology
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / immunology*
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / metabolism
  • RNA, Viral / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 3 / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptor 3 / physiology*


  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • RNA, Viral
  • RNA, immune
  • TLR3 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 3
  • RNA