Recent evidence has implicated innate immunity in regulating neuronal survival in the brain during stroke and other neurodegenerations. Photoreceptors are specialized light-detecting neurons in the retina that are essential for vision. In this study, we investigated the role of the innate immunity receptor TLR4 in photoreceptors. TLR4 activation by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) significantly reduced the survival of cultured mouse photoreceptors exposed to oxidative stress. With respect to mechanism, TLR4 suppressed Wnt signaling, decreased phosphorylation and activation of the Wnt receptor LRP6, and blocked the protective effect of the Wnt3a ligand. Paradoxically, TLR4 activation prior to oxidative injury protected photoreceptors, in a phenomenon known as preconditioning. Expression of TNFα and its receptors TNFR1 and TNFR2 decreased during preconditioning, and preconditioning was mimicked by TNFα antagonists, but was independent of Wnt signaling. Therefore, TLR4 is a novel regulator of photoreceptor survival that acts through the Wnt and TNFα pathways.
Yi, H., Patel, A. K., Sodhi, C. P., Hackam, D. J., & Hackam, A. S. (2012). Novel role for the innate immune receptor toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) in the regulation of the wnt signaling pathway and photoreceptor apoptosis. PLoS ONE, 7(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0036560