Evaluating the role of Toll-like receptors in diseases of the central nervous system

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A key part of the innate immune system is a network of pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) and their associated intracellular signalling pathways. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are one such group of PRRs that detect pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). Activation of the TLRs with their respective agonists results in the activation of intracellular signalling pathways leading to the expression of proinflammatory mediators and anti-microbial effector molecules. Activation of the innate immune system through TLRs also triggers the adaptive immune response, resulting in a comprehensive immune program to eradicate invading pathogens. It is now known that immune surveillance and inflammatory responses occur in the central nervous system (CNS). Furthermore it is becoming increasingly clear that TLRs have a role in such CNS responses and are also implicated in the pathogenesis of a number of conditions in the CNS, such as Alzheimer's, stroke and multiple sclerosis. This is likely due to the generation of endogenous TLR agonists in these conditions which amplifies a detrimental neurotoxic inflammatory response. However TLRs in some situations can be neuroprotective, if triggered in a favourable context. This review aims to examine the recent literature on TLRs in the CNS thus demonstrating their importance in a range of infectious and non-infectious diseases of the brain.

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