TLR4 at the Crossroads of Nutrients, Gut Microbiota, and Metabolic Inflammation

Endocr Rev. 2015 Jun;36(3):245-71. doi: 10.1210/er.2014-1100. Epub 2015 Mar 26.


Obesity is accompanied by the activation of low-grade inflammatory activity in metabolically relevant tissues. Studies have shown that obesity-associated insulin resistance results from the inflammatory targeting and inhibition of key proteins of the insulin-signaling pathway. At least three apparently distinct mechanisms-endoplasmic reticulum stress, toll-like receptor (TLR) 4 activation, and changes in gut microbiota-have been identified as triggers of obesity-associated metabolic inflammation; thus, they are expected to represent potential targets for the treatment of obesity and its comorbidities. Here, we review the data that place TLR4 in the center of the events that connect the consumption of dietary fats with metabolic inflammation and insulin resistance. Changes in the gut microbiota can lead to reduced integrity of the intestinal barrier, leading to increased leakage of lipopolysaccharides and fatty acids, which can act upon TLR4 to activate systemic inflammation. Fatty acids can also trigger endoplasmic reticulum stress, which can be further stimulated by cross talk with active TLR4. Thus, the current data support a connection among the three main triggers of metabolic inflammation, and TLR4 emerges as a link among all of these mechanisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / immunology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Insulin Resistance / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism*


  • Toll-Like Receptor 4