Send to

Choose Destination
PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e26632. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026632. Epub 2011 Oct 21.

LL37 and cationic peptides enhance TLR3 signaling by viral double-stranded RNAs.

Author information

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, United States of America.



Toll-like Receptor 3 (TLR3) detects viral dsRNA during viral infection. However, most natural viral dsRNAs are poor activators of TLR3 in cell-based systems, leading us to hypothesize that TLR3 needs additional factors to be activated by viral dsRNAs. The anti-microbial peptide LL37 is the only known human member of the cathelicidin family of anti-microbial peptides. LL37 complexes with bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to prevent activation of TLR4, binds to ssDNA to modulate TLR9 and ssRNA to modulate TLR7 and 8. It synergizes with TLR2/1, TLR3 and TLR5 agonists to increase IL8 and IL6 production. This work seeks to determine whether LL37 enhances viral dsRNA recognition by TLR3.


Using a human bronchial epithelial cell line (BEAS2B) and human embryonic kidney cells (HEK 293T) transiently transfected with TLR3, we found that LL37 enhanced poly(I:C)-induced TLR3 signaling and enabled the recognition of viral dsRNAs by TLR3. The presence of LL37 also increased the cytokine response to rhinovirus infection in BEAS2B cells and in activated human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Confocal microscopy determined that LL37 could co-localize with TLR3. Electron microscopy showed that LL37 and poly(I:C) individually formed globular structures, but a complex of the two formed filamentous structures. To separate the effects of LL37 on TLR3 and TLR4, other peptides that bind RNA and transport the complex into cells were tested and found to activate TLR3 signaling in response to dsRNAs, but had no effect on TLR4 signaling. This is the first demonstration that LL37 and other RNA-binding peptides with cell penetrating motifs can activate TLR3 signaling and facilitate the recognition of viral ligands.


LL37 and several cell-penetrating peptides can enhance signaling by TLR3 and enable TLR3 to respond to viral dsRNA.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center