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Mol Biol Rep. 2009 Jul;36(6):1475-81. doi: 10.1007/s11033-008-9338-9. Epub 2008 Sep 2.

Increased expression of Toll-like receptors 4 and 9 in human lung cancer.

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Department of Respiratory Medicine, Anhui Geriatric Institute, The First Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical University, Hefei, Anhui, 230022, People's Republic of China.



It has been reported lately that Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play an essential role in the activation of innate immunity, and TLRs are expressed in a large number of immune cells like B-lymphocytes, monocytes, plasmacytoid dendritic cells and at low levels in human respiratory cells as well as epithelial cells. In the present study, we investigated whether there is a relationship between the expression of TLR4 or TLR9 and the clinical or pathological changes in human lung cancer.


Protein expression of TLR4 and TLR9 was assessed by using immunohistochemistry and western blotting. mRNA expressions of TLR4 and TLR9 were detected by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).


High TLR4 and TLR9 mRNA signal intensity was found in the majority of lung cancer specimens. In contrast, tumor-free lung tissue showed lower signal intensity. Consistently, the low amount of TLR4 and TLR9 protein expression was found in tumor-free lung tissue, while they were strongly expressed in lung cancer tissue. In addition, we found for the first time that the differentiation degree of tumor cells was positively correlated with the expression level of TLR4. There was no relationship between the expressions of TLR4 or TLR9 and patients' age, gender, smoking, the histological type of tumor, lymph node metastasis, and tumor node metastases (TNM) stage.


We found that both mRNA and protein levels of TLR4 and TLR9 were strongly expressed in lung cancer tissue. In addition, we reported for the first time a positive correlation between the expression level of TLR4 and malignancy of lung cancer. These results suggested that TLR4 and TLR9 may be involved in the development of lung cancer which may have the potentials for the treatment of this malignant tumor.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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