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Annu Rev Immunol. 2006;24:353-89.

Genetic analysis of host resistance: Toll-like receptor signaling and immunity at large.

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Department of Immunology, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Classical genetic methods, driven by phenotype rather than hypotheses, generally permit the identification of all proteins that serve nonredundant functions in a defined biological process. Long before this goal is achieved, and sometimes at the very outset, genetics may cut to the heart of a biological puzzle. So it was in the field of mammalian innate immunity. The positional cloning of a spontaneous mutation that caused lipopolysaccharide resistance and susceptibility to Gram-negative infection led directly to the understanding that Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are essential sensors of microbial infection. Other mutations, induced by the random germ line mutagen ENU (N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea), have disclosed key molecules in the TLR signaling pathways and helped us to construct a reasonably sophisticated portrait of the afferent innate immune response. A still broader genetic screen--one that detects all mutations that compromise survival during infection--is permitting fresh insight into the number and types of proteins that mammals use to defend themselves against microbes.

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