Induction of the adaptive immune response depends on the expression of co-stimulatory molecules and cytokines by antigen-presenting cells. The mechanisms that control the initial induction of these signals upon infection are poorly understood. It has been proposed that their expression is controlled by the non-clonal, or innate, component of immunity that preceded in evolution the development of an adaptive immune system in vertebrates. We report here the cloning and characterization of a human homologue of the Drosophila toll protein (Toll) which has been shown to induce the innate immune response in adult Drosophila. Like Drosophila Toll, human Toll is a type I transmembrane protein with an extracellular domain consisting of a leucine-rich repeat (LRR) domain, and a cytoplasmic domain homologous to the cytoplasmic domain of the human interleukin (IL)-1 receptor. Both Drosophila Toll and the IL-1 receptor are known to signal through the NF-kappaB pathway. We show that a constitutively active mutant of human Toll transfected into human cell lines can induce the activation of NF-kappaB and the expression of NF-kappaB-controlled genes for the inflammatory cytokines IL-1, IL-6 and IL-8, as well as the expression of the co-stimulatory molecule B7.1, which is required for the activation of naive T cells.