Send to

Choose Destination
Dev Comp Immunol. 2009 Sep;33(9):967-73. doi: 10.1016/j.dci.2009.04.001. Epub 2009 Apr 24.

The avian Toll-Like receptor pathway--subtle differences amidst general conformity.

Author information

School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity College, University of Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland.


The Toll-Like receptor (TLR) pathway plays a core role in innate immunity and is maintained with remarkable consistency across all vertebrate species. Amidst this background of overall conservation, subtle differences in the components that make up this pathway may have important implications for species-specific defense against key pathogens. Here we employ a homology-based comparative method to characterize the TLR pathway in the recently sequenced chicken and zebra finch genomes, which represent two distantly related bird species. The key features of the TLR pathway are conserved in birds and mammals, although some clear differences exist. The TLR receptors show a pattern of gene duplication and gene loss in both avian species when compared to mammals. In particular, we observe avian specific duplication of both TLR1 and TLR2 as well and a recent duplication of the TLR7 gene in the zebra finch lineage. Both positive selection and gene conversion shape the evolution of the avian specific TLR2 genes. In addition, there are notable differences in the zebra finch repertoire of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) when compared to those of the chicken. Bioinformatic analysis reveals no evidence of cathelicidins in the zebra finch genome but does identify a cluster of 12 novel defensins which map to the avian beta-defensin locus on chromosome 3. These findings contribute to the characterization of the differing immune response systems that have evolved in individual vertebrate species in response to their microbiological environment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center