Toll-like receptors and their role in persistent pain

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One of the fundamental mechanisms whereby the innate immune system coordinates inflammatory signal transduction is through Toll-like receptors (TLRs), which function to protect and defend the host organism by initiating inflammatory signaling cascades in response to tissue damage or injury. TLRs are positioned at the neuroimmune interface, and accumulating evidence suggests that the inflammatory consequences of TLR activation on glia (including microglia and astrocytes), sensory neurons, and other cell types can influence nociceptive processing and lead to states of exaggerated and unresolved pain. In this review, we summarize our current understanding of how different TLRs and their accessory or adaptor molecules can contribute to the development and maintenance of persistent pain. The challenges and opportunities of targeting TLRs for new treatment strategies against chronic pain are discussed, including the therapeutic context of TLR-mediated signaling in opioid analgesia and chemotherapy-induced pain. Considering the prevalence of persistent pain and the insufficient efficacy and safety of current treatment options, a deeper understanding of Toll-like receptors holds the promise of novel therapies for managing pathological pain.

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