Research ArticleImmunology

Distinct single-cell signaling characteristics are conferred by the MyD88 and TRIF pathways during TLR4 activation

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Science Signaling  14 Jul 2015:
Vol. 8, Issue 385, pp. ra69
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aaa5208


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) recognize specific pathogen–associated molecular patterns and initiate innate immune responses through signaling pathways that depend on the adaptor proteins MyD88 (myeloid differentiation marker 88) or TRIF (TIR domain–containing adaptor protein–inducing interferon-β). TLR4, in particular, uses both adaptor proteins to activate the transcription factor nuclear factor κB (NF-κB); however, the specificity and redundancy of these two pathways remain to be elucidated. We developed a mathematical model to show how each pathway encodes distinct dynamical features of NF-κB activity and makes distinct contributions to the high variability observed in single-cell measurements. The assembly of a macromolecular signaling platform around MyD88 associated with receptors at the cell surface determined the timing of initial responses to generate a reliable, digital NF-κB signal. In contrast, ligand-induced receptor internalization into endosomes produced noisy, delayed, yet sustained NF-κB signals through TRIF. With iterative mathematical model development, we predicted the molecular mechanisms by which the MyD88- and TRIF-mediated pathways provide ligand concentration–dependent signaling dynamics that transmit information about the pathogen threat.

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