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J Mol Evol. 2004 Apr;58(4):442-8.

Origin of Toll-like receptor-mediated innate immunity.

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Yale University School of Medicine, Epidemiology and Public Health, 60 College Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Toll-related receptors (TLR) have been found in four animal phyla: Nematoda, Arthropoda, Echinodermata, and Chordata. No TLR has been identified thus far in acoelomates. TLR genes play a pivotal role in the innate immunity in both fruit fly and mammals. The prevailing view is that TLR-mediated immunity is ancient. The two pseudocoelomate TLRs, one each from Caenorhabditis elegans and Strongyloides stercoralis, were distinct from the coelomate ones. Further, the only TLR gene (Tol-1) in Ca. elegans did not appear to play a role in innate immunity. We argue that TLR-mediated innate immunity developed only in the coelomates, after they split from pseudocoelomates and acoelomates. We hypothesize that the function of TLR-mediated immunity is to prevent microbial infection in the body cavity present only in the coelomates. Phylogenetic analysis showed that almost all arthropod TLRs form a separate cluster from the mammalian counterparts. We further hypothesize that TLR-mediated immunity developed independently in the protostomia and deuterostomia coelomates.

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