The mammalian TLRs (Toll-like receptors) mediate the rapid initial immune response to pathogens through recognition of pathogen-associated molecular patterns. The pathogen pattern to which TLR8 responds is ssRNA (single-stranded RNA) commonly associated with ssRNA viruses. TLR8 also responds to small, purine-like molecules including the imidazoquinoline IRMs (immune-response modifiers). The IRMs include molecules that selectively activate TLR7, selectively activate TLR8 or non-selectively activate both TLR7 and TLR8. Using HEK-293 cells (human embryonic kidney cells) stably expressing an NF-κB (nuclear factor κB)/luciferase promoter-reporter system as a model system, we have examined the regulation of TLR8 using the non-selective TLR7/8 agonist, 3M-003. Using conservative tyrosine to phenylalanine site-directed mutation, we show that of the 13 tyrosine residues resident in the cytosolic domain of TLR8, only three appear to be critical to TLR8 signalling. Two of these, Tyr898 and Tyr904, reside in the Box 1 motif and the third, Tyr1048, lies in a YXXM putative p85-binding motif. TLR8 is tyrosine-phosphorylated following 3M-003 treatment and TLR8 signalling is inhibited by tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Treatment with 3M-003 results in the association of the p85 regulatory subunit of PI3K (phosphoinositide 3-kinase) with TLR8 and this association is inhibited by tyrosine to phenylalanine mutation of either the YXXM or Box 1 motifs. As a further consequence of activation by 3M-003, TLR8 is modified to yield both higher and lower molecular mass species. These species include a monoubiquitinated form as deduced from ubiquitin peptide sequencing by HPLC/MS/MS (tandem MS).

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