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Trends Immunol. 2003 Oct;24(10):528-33.

Leucine-rich repeats and pathogen recognition in Toll-like receptors.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Building 5, Room 338, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are the major cell-surface initiators of inflammatory responses to pathogens. They bind a wide variety of pathogenic substances through their ectodomains (ECDs). Here, we ask: what is the structural basis for this interaction? Toll-like receptor ECDs comprise 19-25 tandem copies of a motif known as the leucine-rich repeat (LRR). No X-ray structure of a TLR-ECD is currently available but there are several high-resolution LRR-containing proteins that can be used to model TLRs. We suggest that the basic framework of TLRs is a horseshoe-shaped solenoid that contains an extensive beta-sheet on its concave surface, and numerous ligand-binding insertions. Together, these insertions and the beta-sheet could provide a binding surface that is 10-fold greater in area than binding surfaces in antibodies and T-cell receptors.

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