TLR5 participates in the TLR4 receptor complex and promotes MyD88-dependent signaling in environmental lung injury

Elife. 2020 Jan 28;9:e50458. doi: 10.7554/eLife.50458.


Lung disease causes significant morbidity and mortality, and is exacerbated by environmental injury, for example through lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or ozone (O3). Toll-like receptors (TLRs) orchestrate immune responses to injury by recognizing pathogen- or danger-associated molecular patterns. TLR4, the prototypic receptor for LPS, also mediates inflammation after O3, triggered by endogenous hyaluronan. Regulation of TLR4 signaling is incompletely understood. TLR5, the flagellin receptor, is expressed in alveolar macrophages, and regulates immune responses to environmental injury. Using in vivo animal models of TLR4-mediated inflammations (LPS, O3, hyaluronan), we show that TLR5 impacts the in vivo response to LPS, hyaluronan and O3. We demonstrate that immune cells of human carriers of a dominant negative TLR5 allele have decreased inflammatory response to O3 exposure ex vivo and LPS exposure in vitro. Using primary murine macrophages, we find that TLR5 physically associates with TLR4 and biases TLR4 signaling towards the MyD88 pathway. Our results suggest an updated paradigm for TLR4/TLR5 signaling.

Trial registration: NCT01087307 NCT00341237 NCT00574158.

Keywords: TLR4; TLR5; human; human biology; immunology; inflammation; innate immune receptors; medicine; mouse.

Plain language summary

Immune cells in the lung help guard against infections. On the surface of these cells are proteins called TLR receptors that recognize dangerous molecules or DNA from disease-causing microbes such as bacteria. When the immune cells detect these invaders, the TLR receptors spring into action and trigger an inflammatory response to destroy the microbes. This inflammation usually helps the lung clear infections. But it can also be harmful and damage the lung, for example when inflammation is caused by non-infectious substances such as pollutants in the atmosphere. There are several TLR receptors that each recognize a specific molecule. In 2010, researchers showed that the receptor TLR4 is responsible for causing inflammation in the lung after exposure to pollution. Another receptor called TLR5 also helps activate the immune response in the lung. But it was unclear whether this receptor also plays a role in pollution-linked lung damage. Now, Hussain, Johnson, Sciurba et al. – including one of the researchers involved in the 2010 study – have investigated the role of TLR5 in immune cells from the lungs of humans and mice. The experiments showed that TLR5 works together with TLR4 and helps trigger an inflammatory response to both pollutants and bacteria. Hussain et al. found that people lacking a working TLR5 receptor (which make up 3–10% of the population) are less likely to experience lung inflammation when exposed to pollution or bacterial proteins that activate TLR4. These findings suggest that people without TLR5 may be protected from pollution-induced lung injury. Further research into the role of TLR5 could help develop genetic tests for identifying people who are more sensitive to damage from pollution. This information could then be used to determine the likelihood of a patient experiencing certain lung diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung Injury* / chemically induced
  • Lung Injury* / metabolism
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88* / genetics
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88* / metabolism
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Signal Transduction* / genetics
  • Signal Transduction* / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4* / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4* / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptor 5* / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptor 5* / metabolism


  • MYD88 protein, human
  • Myd88 protein, mouse
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88
  • TLR4 protein, human
  • TLR5 protein, human
  • Tlr4 protein, mouse
  • Tlr5 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Toll-Like Receptor 5

Associated data