The heterogeneous allelic repertoire of human toll-like receptor (TLR) genes

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Toll-Like Receptors (TLR) are critical elements of the innate arm of the vertebrate immune system. They constitute a multigenic family of receptors which collectively bind a diverse array of--exogeneous as well as endogeneous--ligands. An exponential burst of knowledge has defined their biological role in fight against infections and generation/modulation of auto-immune disorders. Hence, they could at least be conceptually recognized--despite being structurally unrelated - as innate counterparts to Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) molecules--equally recognizing antigenic ligands (albeit structurally more homogeneous i.e., peptides), again derived from self and/or non-self sources--preeminent this time in adaptive immunity. Our great disparities in face of infections and/or susceptibility to auto-immune diseases have provoked an intense search for genetic explanations, in part satisfied by the extraordinary MHC allelic repertoire. An equally in-depth and systematic analysis of TLR diversity is lacking despite numerous independent reports of a growing number of SNPs within these loci. The work described here aims at providing a preliminary picture of the allelic repertoire--and not purely SNPs--of all 10 human TLR coding sequences (with exception of TLR3) within a single cohort of up to 100 individuals. It appears from our work that TLR are unequally polymorphic: TLR2 (DNA alleles: 7/protein alleles: 3), 4 (4/3), 7 (6/3), 8 (9/2) and 9 (8/3) being comparatively least diverse whereas TLR1 (11/10), 5 (14/12), 6 (10/8) and 10 (15/10) show a substantial number of alleles. In addition to allelic assignment of a large number of SNPs, 10 new polymorphic positions were hereby identified. Hence this work depicts a first overview of the diversity of almost all human TLR genes, a prelude for large-scale population genetics as well as genetic association studies.




Georgel, P., Macquin, C., & Bahram, S. (2009). The heterogeneous allelic repertoire of human toll-like receptor (TLR) genes. PLoS ONE, 4(11).

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