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Clin Exp Immunol. 2004 May;136(2):312-9.

Differential expression of Toll-like receptor (TLR)-2 and TLR-4 on monocytes in human sepsis.

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Lung Research Group, University of Bristol Division of Medicine, Southmead Hospital, Bristol, UK.


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are a recently described family of immune receptors involved in the recognition of pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). The central role of TLR-2 and TLR-4 in microbial responses suggests they may be implicated in the pathogenesis of human sepsis. We hypothesized that the incidence and outcome of sepsis would be influenced by the expression of TLR-2 and TLR-4 on monocytes. We have examined the expression of TLR-2 and TLR-4 mRNA and protein and their response to pro- and anti-inflammatory agents on monocytes from subjects in the intensive therapy unit (ITU) with and without Gram-negative, Gram-positive or polymicrobial sepsis. We compared these data to ITU and healthy control subjects. TLR-2 mRNA was significantly up-regulated on monocytes from subjects with both Gram-positive and Gram-negative sepsis. Similarly, we detected increased levels of TLR-2 protein on the surface of monocytes from sepsis subjects relative to ITU controls. TLR-4 mRNA was increased in Gram-positive subjects; however, there was no corresponding increase in TLR-4 protein. Although TLR-4 mRNA expression in healthy control monocytes could be modulated in vitro by culture with lipopolysaccharide or interleukin-10, this was not observed in monocytes obtained from sepsis and ITU control subjects, suggesting that septic and ITU control milieus may alter the immunoregulation of TLR-4 mRNA expression on monocytes. TLR-2 mRNA was not modulated in culture by any stimulus in any group. We suggest that expression and regulatory response of monocyte TLR-2, and to a lesser extent TLR-4 may be abnormal in human sepsis.

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