Toll-like receptor 4: A promising crossroads in the diagnosis and treatment of several pathologies.Eur J Pharmacol. 2020 May 05; 874:172975.EJ
Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) is expressed in a wide variety of cells and is the central component of the mammalian innate immune system. Since its discovery in 1997, TLR4 has been assigned an ever-increasing number of functions that extend from pathogen recognition to tissue damage identification and promotion of the intrinsic "damage repair response" in pain, intestinal, respiratory and vascular disorders. Precisely, the finding of conserved sequence homology among species along with the molecular and functional characterisation of the TLR4 gene enabled researchers to envisage a common operating system in the activation of innate immunity and the initiation of plastic changes at the onset of chronic pain. Malfunctioning in other conditions was conceived in parallel. In this respect, "pivot" proteins and pathway redundancy are not just evolutionary leftovers but essential for normal functioning or cell survival. Indeed, at present, TLR4 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and their association with certain dysfunctions and diseases are being confirmed in different pools of patients. However, despite its ability to trigger pathogen infection or alternatively tissue injury communications to immune system, TLR4 targeting might not be considered a panacea. This review article represents a compilation of what we know about TLR4 from clinics and basic research on the 20th anniversary of its discovery. Understanding how to fine-tune the interaction between TLR4 and its specific ligands may lead in the next decades to the development of promising new treatments, reducing polypharmacy and probably having an impact on drug use in numerous pathologies.