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J Endotoxin Res. 2004;10(6):419-24.

Use of murine embryonic fibroblasts to define Toll-like receptor activation and specificity.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, 364 Plantation Street, Lazare Research Building Room 226, Worcester, Massachusetts 01605, USA.


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are critically involved in the innate immune response to bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens. We have studied human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, murine embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) and a panel of human cell lines, including HEK, HeLa, AGS, ECV304 and U373 cells, for expression of TLR-specific mRNAs and for TLR-ligand dependent cytokine secretion. Peripheral blood cells expressed multiple TLRs; however, many studies have shown that blood contains multiple, heterogeneous cell populations with distinct patterns of TLR expression. Cell lines had variable expression of TLRs, and in most cases lacked TLR2 and TLR8 expression and only weakly expressed mRNAs for TLR5, TLR7 and TLR9. In contrast, MEFs expressed high levels of mRNA for TLR1, TLR2, TLR3, TLR4, TLR5, TLR6, TLR7, TLR8 and TLR9. MEFs were highly responsive to TLR-ligand activation and secreted high levels of both IL-6 and MCP-1 in response to TLR ligands. MEFs from mice with targeted deletions of TLR2, TLR4 and MyD88 demonstrated profound defects in their IL-6 response to their specific ligands, consistent with studies of macrophages and tissues from adult knockout animals. MEF cultures are homogenous and amenable to biochemical analysis and should allow rigorous studies of the contribution of individual TLRs to the innate immune response.

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