The problem of recognizing and disposing of non-self-organisms, whether for nutrients or defense, predates the evolution of multicellularity. Accordingly, the function of the innate immune system is often intimately associated with fundamental aspects of cell biology. Here, we review our current understanding of the links between cell biology and pattern-recognition receptors of the innate immune system. We highlight the importance of receptor localization for the detection of microbes and for the initiation of antimicrobial signaling pathways. We discuss examples that illustrate how pattern-recognition receptors influence, and are influenced by, the general membrane trafficking machinery of mammalian cells. In the future, cell biological analysis likely will rival pure genetic analysis as a tool to uncover fundamental principles that govern host-microbe interactions.
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