Understanding how the body’s immune system recognises and responds to microorganisms can be a major step in the development of new therapies against infectious diseases. Towards this aim, a paper just released in the October issue of Embo reports1 discusses the process used by mammals to respond to bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori, Listeria monocytogenes and Streptococcus pneumoniae which are responsible for ulcers, Listeriosis and pneumonia, respectively.
In order to protect against infection it is necessary to detect invading microorganisms/ microbes capable of inducing disease. This is done through the recognition by the immune system of molecules unique to these invading organisms. In bacteria for example, components of their cell walls such as peptidoglycan, a polymer of sugars and peptides which is involved in cells shape and wall integrity, is one such target. The innate immune system is the first line of defence as it can be mobilised almost immediately and have a crucial role in prevention of infection. But the molecules/receptors and the mechanism involved in the recognition and clearance of microrganisms by this part of the immune system are still poorly known. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are a family of molecules which have recently emerged as key components in the recognition of infectious agents by the innate immune system.
Now, Leonardo Travassos and Ivo G Boneca from the Institute Pasteur, Paris, France together with colleagues from the Federal University of the Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil and the University Paris-Sud, in Orsay, France, found that TLR2, a member of the TRL family seems to recognise lipoteichoic acid (LTA) an important component of the bacteria cell wall, but does not recognize peptidoglycans, a result in clear disagreement with previous work by other groups. The differences found are due, according to Travassos, Boneca and colleagues, to contamination of the bacteria used in earlier research.
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