Innate Immune Signaling and Its Role in Metabolic and Cardiovascular Diseases

Physiol Rev. 2019 Jan 1;99(1):893-948. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00065.2017.


The innate immune system is an evolutionarily conserved system that senses and defends against infection and irritation. Innate immune signaling is a complex cascade that quickly recognizes infectious threats through multiple germline-encoded cell surface or cytoplasmic receptors and transmits signals for the deployment of proper countermeasures through adaptors, kinases, and transcription factors, resulting in the production of cytokines. As the first response of the innate immune system to pathogenic signals, inflammatory responses must be rapid and specific to establish a physical barrier against the spread of infection and must subsequently be terminated once the pathogens have been cleared. Long-lasting and low-grade chronic inflammation is a distinguishing feature of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, which are currently major public health problems. Cardiometabolic stress-induced inflammatory responses activate innate immune signaling, which directly contributes to the development of cardiometabolic diseases. Additionally, although the innate immune elements are highly conserved in higher-order jawed vertebrates, lower-grade jawless vertebrates lack several transcription factors and inflammatory cytokine genes downstream of the Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and retinoic acid-inducible gene-I (RIG-I)-like receptors (RLRs) pathways, suggesting that innate immune signaling components may additionally function in an immune-independent way. Notably, recent studies from our group and others have revealed that innate immune signaling can function as a vital regulator of cardiometabolic homeostasis independent of its immune function. Therefore, further investigation of innate immune signaling in cardiometabolic systems may facilitate the discovery of new strategies to manage the initiation and progression of cardiometabolic disorders, leading to better treatments for these diseases. In this review, we summarize the current progress in innate immune signaling studies and the regulatory function of innate immunity in cardiometabolic diseases. Notably, we highlight the immune-independent effects of innate immune signaling components on the development of cardiometabolic disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*


  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear