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J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2004 Nov;24(11):1288-304.

Inhibition of toll-like receptor and cytokine signaling--a unifying theme in ischemic tolerance.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


Cerebral ischemia triggers acute inflammation, which exacerbates primary brain damage. Activation of the innate immune system is an important component of this inflammatory response. Inflammation occurs through the action of proinflammatory cytokines, such as TNF, IL-1 beta and IL-6, that alter blood flow and increase vascular permeability, thus leading to secondary ischemia and accumulation of immune cells in the brain. Production of these cytokines is initiated by signaling through Toll-like receptors (TLRs) that recognize host-derived molecules released from injured tissues and cells. Recently, great strides have been made in understanding the regulation of the innate immune system, particularly the signaling mechanisms of TLRs. Negative feedback inhibitors of TLRs and inflammatory cytokines have now been identified and characterized. It is also evident that lipid rafts exist in membranes and play a role in receptor-mediated inflammatory signaling events. In the present review, using this newly available large body of knowledge, we take a fresh look at studies of ischemic tolerance. Based on this analysis, we recognize a striking similarity between ischemic tolerance and endotoxin tolerance, an immune suppressive state characterized by hyporesponsiveness to lipopolysaccharide (LPS). In view of this analogy, and considering recent discoveries related to molecular mechanisms of endotoxin tolerance, we postulate that inhibition of TLR and proinflammatory cytokine signaling contributes critically to ischemic tolerance in the brain and other organs. Ischemic tolerance is a protective mechanism induced by a variety of preconditioning stimuli. Tolerance can be established with two temporal profiles: (i) a rapid form in which the trigger induces tolerance to ischemia within minutes and (ii) a delayed form in which development of protection takes several hours or days and requires de-novo protein synthesis. The rapid form of tolerance is achieved by direct interference with membrane fluidity, causing disruption of lipid rafts leading to inhibition of TLR/cytokine signaling pathways. In the delayed form of tolerance, the preconditioning stimulus first triggers the TLR/cytokine inflammatory pathways, leading not only to inflammation but also to simultaneous upregulation of feedback inhibitors of inflammation. These inhibitors, which include signaling inhibitors, decoy receptors, and anti-inflammatory cytokines, reduce the inflammatory response to a subsequent episode of ischemia. This novel interpretation of the molecular mechanism of ischemic tolerance highlights new avenues for future investigation into the prevention and treatment of stroke and related diseases.

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