The Interleukin-1 Receptor/Toll-Like Receptor Superfamily: Signal Transduction During Inflammation and Host Defense

Sci. STKE, 25 February 2003
Vol. 2003, Issue 171, p. re3
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2003.171.re3

The Interleukin-1 Receptor/Toll-Like Receptor Superfamily: Signal Transduction During Inflammation and Host Defense

  1. Aisling Dunne and
  2. Luke A. J. O'Neill*
  1. Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology Institute, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.
  1. *Corresponding author. E-mail: laoneill{at}


The signal transduction pathways activated by the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1) have been the focus of much attention because of the important role that IL-1 plays in inflammatory diseases. A number of proteins have been described that participate in the post-receptor activation of the transcription factor nuclear factor κB (NF-κB), and stress-activated protein kinases such as p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). It has also emerged that the type I IL-1 receptor (IL-1RI) is a member of an expanding receptor superfamily. These related receptors all have sequence similarity in their cytosolic regions. The family includes the Drosophila melanogaster protein Toll, the IL-18 receptor (IL-18R), and 10 Toll-like receptors (TLRs), TLR-1 to TLR-10, which bind to microbial products, activating host defense responses. Because of the similarity of IL-1RI to Toll, the conserved sequence in the cytosolic region of these proteins has been termed the Toll-IL-1 receptor (TIR) domain. The same proteins activated during signaling by IL-1RI also participate in signaling by other receptors with TIR domains. The receptor superfamily is evolutionarily conserved; members also occur in plants and insects, where they also function in host defense. The signaling proteins that are activated are also conserved across species. Differences are, however, starting to emerge in signaling pathways activated by different receptors. This receptor superfamily, therefore, represents an ancient signaling system that is a critical determinant of the innate immune and inflammatory responses.


A. Dunne and L. A. O'Neill, The Interleukin-1 Receptor/Toll-Like Receptor Superfamily: Signal Transduction During Inflammation and Host Defense. Sci. STKE 2003, re3 (2003).

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