The role of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) in cardiac ischaemic-reperfusion injury, cardioprotection and preconditioning

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Cardiac ischaemic-reperfusion injury (IRI) remains the primary cause of mortality throughout the developed world. Molecular mechanisms underlying IRI are complex and are often interlinked with each other driving a synergistic response. Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), an immunosurveillance receptor, is known to enhance tissue injury during IRI by enhancing the inflammatory response. The release of endogenous components during IRI bind onto TLR4 leading to the activation of multiple signalling kinases. Once this event occurs these proteins are defined as danger associated molecular patterns molecules (DAMPs) or alarmins. Examples include heat shock proteins, high mobility group box one (HMGB1) and extracellular matrix proteins, all of which are involved in IRI. However, literature in the last two decades suggests that transient stimulation of TLR4 may suppress IRI and thus improve cardiac recovery. Furthermore, it remains to be seen what role TLR4 plays during ischaemic-preconditioning where acute bouts of ischaemia, preceding a harmful bout of ischaemic-reperfusion, is cardioprotective. The other question which also needs to be considered is that if transient TLR4 signalling drives a preconditioning response then what are the ligands which drive this? Hence the second part of this review explores the possible TLR4 ligands which may promote cardioprotection against IRI.

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