, Volume 60, Issue 5, pp 249–256

Functional diversification of the toll-like receptor gene family

Original Paper


Phylogenetic analyses supported the hypothesis that the vertebrate toll-like receptors (TLRs) include two very ancient groups that arose by gene duplication prior to the divergence of protostomes and deuterostomes: (1) the TLR1 family (including mammalian TLR1, TLR2, TLR6, and TLR10); and (2) a clade including the remainder of mammalian TLRs. Correlating data on ligand type, subcellular localization, and gene expression in leukocytes and other tissues with the phylogeny provided evidence that certain major functional specializations within the TLRs occurred after ancient gene duplication events and that these traits have been retained through further events of gene duplication. For example, the recognition of bacterial lipoproteins appears to have arisen in the ancestor of the TLR1 family and continues to characterize members of that family whose ligands are known. Likewise, expression on the endosomal membrane and the recognition of nucleic acids appears to have been arisen in the ancestor of the TLR7 family and some related TLRs. On the other hand, gene expression patterns across tissues appear to have been much more volatile over the evolution of the vertebrate TLRs, since genes may show expression profiles similar to those of distantly related genes but dissimilar to those of closely related genes. Thus, the vertebrate TLRs provide an example of a multi-gene family in which gene duplication has been followed by extensive changes in certain aspects of gene function, while others have been conserved throughout vertebrate history.


Immune system evolution Pathogen-associated molecular patterns Toll-like receptors 

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesKent State UniversityKentUSA

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