The pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1) signals via the Type-1 IL-1 receptor (IL-1RI), inducing an increase in the expression of many genes with roles in immunity and inflammation. The signalling pathways involve two adapter proteins, MyD88 and Tollip, which via two IL-1 receptor-associated kinases (IRAK and IRAK-2) activate transcription factors such as nuclear factor-κB and protein kinases such as p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase. A role for the low-molecular-mass G-proteins Rac, Ras and Rap in these processes has also been indicated. IL-1RI is the founder of a diverse superfamily of receptors, which all share a cytosolic domain, termed the Toll/IL-1 receptor (TIR) domain. The superfamily can be divided broadly into three subgroups. The first of these is most similar to IL-1RI and includes the receptor for IL-18 and the Th2 cell regulator T1/ST2. The second subgroup is most similar to the Drosophila melanagaster protein Toll and includes Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2), which is required for host defence against Gram-positive bacteria and fungi, and TLR4, which is required for lipopolysaccharide responsiveness, and thus is involved in host defence against Gram-negative bacteria. There are also a number of TLRs in plants and insects, all involved in host defence. The third subgroup contains nonreceptor proteins which possess a TIR domain and are cytosolic. MyD88 is a member, and it presumably complexes with IL-1RI via a TIR-TIR interaction. The other two members are proteins encoded by the vaccinia virus, A46R and A52R, which block TIR-dependent signalling. This receptor superfamily therefore appears to play a central role in inflammation and host defence against infection, pointing to the TIR domain as a critical molecular player in the innate immune response.

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