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J Leukoc Biol. 2007 Sep;82(3):509-18. Epub 2007 Jun 22.

Cross-talk between toll-like receptors 5 and 9 on activation of human immune responses.

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Department of Experimental Oncology, Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Via Venezian 1, 20133 Milan, Italy.


The recognition of pathogen-associated molecular patterns by TLRs triggers the activation of innate and adaptive immune responses. Flagellin, the agonist of TLR5, is expressed by prokaryotes and eukaryotes, and DNA sequences containing unmethylated CpG dinucleotides, agonists of TLR9, are present essentially in prokaryotes. To test the potential modulating effects of simultaneous activation of different TLRs on the immune response, we compared the outcomes in different immune cell compartments induced by triggering TLR5 and TLR9 individually and in combination. PBMCs, monocytes, and monocyte-derived DC (MoDC) secreted high levels of IL-10 in response to flagellin, whereas oligodeoxynucleotides (ODN) containing the CpG sequence (CpG-ODN), synthetic ligands of TLR9, did not induce IL-10 secretion in any of the three cell types but synergized with flagellin in this induction. In contrast, PBMC production of IFN-alpha induced by CpG-ODN was strongly inhibited by flagellin. Conversely, CpG-ODN did not enhance the up-regulation of activation markers in MoDC induced to mature in the presence of flagellin. Flagellin-matured, but not CpG-ODN-matured, MoDC stimulated the expansion of allogeneic CD4+CD25+ T cells, and the extent of expansion induced by MoDC, matured in the presence of flagellin and CpG-ODN, was similar to that induced by flagellin-matured MoDC. Moreover, flagellin and CpG-ODN differentially affected NK-mediated cytotoxicity, and flagellin completely abrogated the NK-mediated immune response induced by CpG-ODN stimulation. Together, these results suggest that flagellin inhibits the TLR9-induced cell activation and cytokine production, which favor Th1-type immune responses, possibly because the signals evoked by flagellin to indicate the presence of extracellular pathogens must favor a Th2-polarized response. Thus, TLR5 and TLR9, alerted by the presence of microorganisms, influence each other to mount the more efficient and appropriate immune response to contain the infection of a specific pathogen.

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