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Elife. 2020 Jan 28;9. pii: e50458. doi: 10.7554/eLife.50458.

TLR5 participates in the TLR4 receptor complex and promotes MyD88-dependent signaling in environmental lung injury.

Author information

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, United States.
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, School of Medicine, West Virginia University, Morgantown, United States.
Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, United States.
Department of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, United States.
Department of ICU, First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University, Harbin, China.
Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, United States.
Duke University Medical Center, Durham, United States.
Department of Immunology, Faculty of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Biotechnology, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland.
East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine, Greenville, United States.
Contributed equally


Lung disease causes significant morbidity and mortality, and is exacerbated by environmental injury, for example through lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or ozone (O3). Toll-like receptors (TLRs) orchestrate immune responses to injury by recognizing pathogen- or danger-associated molecular patterns. TLR4, the prototypic receptor for LPS, also mediates inflammation after O3, triggered by endogenous hyaluronan. Regulation of TLR4 signaling is incompletely understood. TLR5, the flagellin receptor, is expressed in alveolar macrophages, and regulates immune responses to environmental injury. Using in vivo animal models of TLR4-mediated inflammations (LPS, O3, hyaluronan), we show that TLR5 impacts the in vivo response to LPS, hyaluronan and O3. We demonstrate that immune cells of human carriers of a dominant negative TLR5 allele have decreased inflammatory response to O3 exposure ex vivo and LPS exposure in vitro. Using primary murine macrophages, we find that TLR5 physically associates with TLR4 and biases TLR4 signaling towards the MyD88 pathway. Our results suggest an updated paradigm for TLR4/TLR5 signaling.


Immune cells in the lung help guard against infections. On the surface of these cells are proteins called TLR receptors that recognize dangerous molecules or DNA from disease-causing microbes such as bacteria. When the immune cells detect these invaders, the TLR receptors spring into action and trigger an inflammatory response to destroy the microbes. This inflammation usually helps the lung clear infections. But it can also be harmful and damage the lung, for example when inflammation is caused by non-infectious substances such as pollutants in the atmosphere. There are several TLR receptors that each recognize a specific molecule. In 2010, researchers showed that the receptor TLR4 is responsible for causing inflammation in the lung after exposure to pollution. Another receptor called TLR5 also helps activate the immune response in the lung. But it was unclear whether this receptor also plays a role in pollution-linked lung damage. Now, Hussain, Johnson, Sciurba et al. – including one of the researchers involved in the 2010 study – have investigated the role of TLR5 in immune cells from the lungs of humans and mice. The experiments showed that TLR5 works together with TLR4 and helps trigger an inflammatory response to both pollutants and bacteria. Hussain et al. found that people lacking a working TLR5 receptor (which make up 3–10% of the population) are less likely to experience lung inflammation when exposed to pollution or bacterial proteins that activate TLR4. These findings suggest that people without TLR5 may be protected from pollution-induced lung injury. Further research into the role of TLR5 could help develop genetic tests for identifying people who are more sensitive to damage from pollution. This information could then be used to determine the likelihood of a patient experiencing certain lung diseases.


TLR4; TLR5; human; human biology; immunology; inflammation; innate immune receptors; medicine; mouse

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