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Nat Immunol. 2002 Apr;3(4):354-9. Epub 2002 Mar 25.

Human Toll-like receptor 4 recognizes host-specific LPS modifications.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is the principal proinflammatory component of the Gram-negative bacterial envelope and is recognized by the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)-MD-2 receptor complex. Bacteria can alter the acylation state of their LPS in response to environmental changes. One opportunistic bacterium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, synthesizes more highly acylated (hexa-acylated) LPS structures during adaptation to the cystic fibrosis airway. Here we show that human, but not murine, TLR4-MD-2 recognizes this adaptation and transmits robust proinflammatory signals in response to hexa-acylated but not penta-acylated LPS from P. aeruginosa. Whereas responses to lipidIVA and taxol are dependent on murine MD-2, discrimination of P. aeruginosa LPS structures is mediated by an 82-amino-acid region of human TLR4 that is hypervariable across species. Thus, in contrast to mice, humans use TLR4 to recognize a molecular signature of bacterial-host adaptation to modulate the innate immune response.

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