Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is the main inducer of shock and death in Gram-negative sepsis. Recent evidence suggests that LPS-induced signal transduction begins with CD14-mediated activation of 1 or more Toll-like receptors (TLRs). The lipid A analogues lipid IVa and Rhodobacter sphaeroides lipid A (RSLA) exhibit an uncommon species-specific pharmacology. Both compounds inhibit the effects of LPS in human cells but display LPS-mimetic activity in hamster cells. We transfected human TLR4 or human TLR2 into hamster fibroblasts to determine if either of these LPS signal transducers is responsible for the species-specific pharmacology. RSLA and lipid IVa strongly induced NF-κB activity and IL-6 release in Chinese hamster ovary fibroblasts expressing CD14 (CHO/CD14), but these compounds antagonized LPS antagonists in CHO/CD14 fibroblasts that overexpressed human TLR4. No such antagonism occurred in cells overexpressing human TLR2. We cloned TLR4 from hamster macrophages and found that human THP-1 cells expressing the hamster TLR4 responded to lipid IVa as an LPS mimetic, as if they were hamster in origin. Hence, cells heterologously overexpressing TLR4 from different species acquired a pharmacological phenotype with respect to recognition of lipid A substructures that corresponded to the species from which the TLR4 transgene originated. These data suggest that TLR4 is the central lipid A–recognition protein in the LPS receptor complex.
Egil Lien, Terry K. Means, Holger Heine, Atsutoshi Yoshimura, Shoichi Kusumoto, Koichi Fukase, Matthew J. Fenton, Masato Oikawa, Nilofer Qureshi, Brian Monks, Robert W. Finberg, Robin R. Ingalls, Douglas T. Golenbock
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