Gene Summary

Gene:TLR7; toll like receptor 7
Aliases: TLR7-like
Summary:The protein encoded by this gene is a member of the Toll-like receptor (TLR) family which plays a fundamental role in pathogen recognition and activation of innate immunity. TLRs are highly conserved from Drosophila to humans and share structural and functional similarities. They recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) that are expressed on infectious agents, and mediate the production of cytokines necessary for the development of effective immunity. The various TLRs exhibit different patterns of expression. This gene is predominantly expressed in lung, placenta, and spleen, and lies in close proximity to another family member, TLR8, on chromosome X. [provided by RefSeq, Jul 2008]
Databases:VEGA, OMIM, HGNC, Ensembl, GeneCard, Gene
Protein:toll-like receptor 7
Source:NCBIAccessed: 13 March, 2017


What does this gene/protein do?
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Pathways:What pathways are this gene/protein implicaed in?
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Cancer Overview

Research Indicators

Publications Per Year (1992-2017)
Graph generated 13 March 2017 using data from PubMed using criteria.

Literature Analysis

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Tag cloud generated 13 March, 2017 using data from PubMed, MeSH and CancerIndex

Latest Publications: TLR7 (cancer-related)

Huang SW, Chang SH, Mu SW, et al.
Imiquimod activates p53-dependent apoptosis in a human basal cell carcinoma cell line.
J Dermatol Sci. 2016; 81(3):182-91 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: The tumor suppressor p53 controls DNA repair, cell cycle, apoptosis, autophagy and numerous other cellular processes. Imiquimod (IMQ), a synthetic toll-like receptor (TLR) 7 ligand for the treatment of superficial basal cell carcinoma (BCC), eliminates cancer cells by activating cell-mediated immunity and directly inducing apoptosis and autophagy in cancer cells.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the role of p53 in IMQ-induced cell death in skin cancer cells.
METHODS: The expression, phosphorylation and subcellular localization of p53 were detected by real-time PCR, luciferase reporter assay, cycloheximide chase analysis, immunoblotting and immunocytochemistry. Using BCC/KMC1 cell line as a model, the upstream signaling of p53 activation was dissected by over-expression of TLR7/8, the addition of ROS scavenger, ATM/ATR inhibitors and pan-caspase inhibitor. The role of p53 in IMQ-induced apoptosis and autophagy was assessed by genetically silencing p53 and evaluated by a DNA content assay, immunoblotting, LC3 puncta detection and acridine orange staining.
RESULTS: IMQ induced p53 mRNA expression and protein accumulation, increased Ser15 phosphorylation, promoted nuclear translocation and up-regulated its target genes in skin cancer cells in a TLR7/8-independent manner. In BCC/KMC1 cells, the induction of p53 by IMQ was achieved through increased ROS production to stimulate the ATM/ATR-Chk1/Chk2 axis but was not mediated by inducing DNA damage. The pharmacological inhibition of ATM/ATR significantly suppressed IMQ-induced p53 activation and apoptosis. Silencing of p53 significantly decreased the IMQ-induced caspase cascade activation and apoptosis but enhanced autophagy. Mutant p53 skin cancer cell lines were more resistant to IMQ-induced apoptosis than wildtype p53 skin cancer cell lines.
CONCLUSION: IMQ induced ROS production to stimulate ATM/ATR pathways and contributed to p53-dependent apoptosis in a skin basal cell carcinoma cell line BCC/KMC1.

Wang F, Jin R, Zou BB, et al.
Activation of Toll-like receptor 7 regulates the expression of IFN-λ1, p53, PTEN, VEGF, TIMP-1 and MMP-9 in pancreatic cancer cells.
Mol Med Rep. 2016; 13(2):1807-12 [PubMed] Related Publications
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are critical in the induction of the immune response in tumor development. TLR7 has previously been demonstrated to be associated with the development of pancreatic cancer, and the release of cytokines and chemokines from other types of cancer cell; however, the specific expression induced by TLR7 agonists in pancreatic cancer cells remains to be elucidated. The present study aimed to investigate the effects of the TLR7 agonist, gardiquimod, on ERK1/2 signaling pathway, and on the expression of genes involved in the pathogenesis of cancer, including phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN), p53, type Ⅲ interferon (IFN-λ1), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9) and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 1 (TIMP-1). The results demonstrated that activation of TLR7 upregulated the expression levels of certain genes to varying degrees; the expression levels of IFN-λ1 and MMP-9 were increased by ~3 fold, whereas other genes (p53, PTEN, TIMP-1) were upregulated by ~2 fold, and VEGF was marginally upregulated after 10 min. Furthermore, gardiquimod increased the expression levels of phosphorylated-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)1/2. In addition, PD98059, a specific inhibitor of ERK phosphorylation, inhibited the ability of gardiquimod to activate ERK1/2; consequently weakening the effect of gardiquimod on gene regulation. These findings indicated that the effect of TLR7 agonists, including gardiquimod, on gene expression in BxPC-3 pancreatic cancer cells was partly associated with the mitogen-activated protein kinase-ERK1/2 signaling pathway.

Sampey GC, Saifuddin M, Schwab A, et al.
Exosomes from HIV-1-infected Cells Stimulate Production of Pro-inflammatory Cytokines through Trans-activating Response (TAR) RNA.
J Biol Chem. 2016; 291(3):1251-66 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
HIV-1 infection results in a chronic illness because long-term highly active antiretroviral therapy can lower viral titers to an undetectable level. However, discontinuation of therapy rapidly increases virus burden. Moreover, patients under highly active antiretroviral therapy frequently develop various metabolic disorders, neurocognitive abnormalities, and cardiovascular diseases. We have previously shown that exosomes containing trans-activating response (TAR) element RNA enhance susceptibility of undifferentiated naive cells to HIV-1 infection. This study indicates that exosomes from HIV-1-infected primary cells are highly abundant with TAR RNA as detected by RT-real time PCR. Interestingly, up to a million copies of TAR RNA/μl were also detected in the serum from HIV-1-infected humanized mice suggesting that TAR RNA may be stable in vivo. Incubation of exosomes from HIV-1-infected cells with primary macrophages resulted in a dramatic increase of proinflammatory cytokines, IL-6 and TNF-β, indicating that exosomes containing TAR RNA could play a direct role in control of cytokine gene expression. The intact TAR molecule was able to bind to PKR and TLR3 effectively, whereas the 5' and 3' stems (TAR microRNAs) bound best to TLR7 and -8 and none to PKR. Binding of TAR to PKR did not result in its phosphorylation, and therefore, TAR may be a dominant negative decoy molecule in cells. The TLR binding through either TAR RNA or TAR microRNA potentially can activate the NF-κB pathway and regulate cytokine expression. Collectively, these results imply that exosomes containing TAR RNA could directly affect the proinflammatory cytokine gene expression and may explain a possible mechanism of inflammation observed in HIV-1-infected patients under cART.

Fonte E, Agathangelidis A, Reverberi D, et al.
Toll-like receptor stimulation in splenic marginal zone lymphoma can modulate cell signaling, activation and proliferation.
Haematologica. 2015; 100(11):1460-8 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Recent studies on splenic marginal zone lymphoma identified distinct mutations in genes belonging to the B-cell receptor and Toll-like receptor signaling pathways, thus pointing to their potential implication in the biology of the disease. However, limited data is available regarding the exact role of TLRs. We aimed at characterizing the expression pattern of TLRs in splenic marginal zone lymphoma cells and their functional impact on the activation, proliferation and viability of malignant cells in vitro. Cells expressed significant levels of TLR1, TLR6, TLR7, TLR8, TLR9 and TLR10 mRNA; TLR2 and TLR4 showed a low, variable pattern of expression among patients whereas TLR3 and TLR5 mRNAs were undetectable; mRNA specific for TLR signaling molecules and adapters was also expressed. At the protein level, TLR1, TLR6, TLR7, TLR9 and TLR10 were detected. Stimulation of TLR1/2, TLR2/6 and TLR9 with their respective ligands triggered the activation of IRAK kinases, MAPK and NF-κB signaling pathways, and the induction of CD86 and CD25 activation molecules, although in a heterogeneous manner among different patient samples. TLR-induced activation and cell viability were also inhibited by a specific IRAK1/4 inhibitor, thus strongly supporting the specific role of TLR signaling in these processes. Furthermore, TLR2/6 and TLR9 stimulation also significantly increased cell proliferation. In conclusion, we demonstrate that splenic marginal zone lymphoma cells are equipped with functional TLR and signaling molecules and that the stimulation of TLR1/2, TLR2/6 and TLR9 may play a role in regulating disease pathobiology, likely promoting the expansion of the neoplastic clone.

Yu DS, Wu CL, Ping SY, et al.
Bacille Calmette-Guerin can induce cellular apoptosis of urothelial cancer directly through toll-like receptor 7 activation.
Kaohsiung J Med Sci. 2015; 31(8):391-7 [PubMed] Related Publications
Immunotherapy using bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) instillation is the mainstay treatment modality for superficial urothelial cancer (UC) through toll-like receptor (TLR) activation of cognitive immune response. We investigated the roles of TLR7 in the activation of apoptosis in UC cells after BCG treatment. The in vitro cytotoxicity effect of BCG on UC cells was measured by a modified 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazo-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium assay. Expressions of TLR7 mRNA and protein in native UC cells prior to and after BCG treatment were analyzed using real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction and western blot methods. Phagocytotic processes after BCG treatment in UC cells were observed microscopically using a specific immunostain, subsequent cellular apoptosis-related signals induced by TLR7 were analyzed by western blot. Low-grade UC cells, TSGH8301, showed significant cellular death (4.23-fold higher than the high-grade UC cells T24 and J82) when treated with BCG and the BCG cytotoxicity was displayed in a dose-time-dependent manner. TSGH8301 cells had the highest content of TLR7 mRNA, 7.2- and 4.5-fold higher than that of T24 and J82 cells, respectively. TLR7 protein expression was also significantly increased in TSGH8301 cells. Phagocytosis-related markers, including beclin 1, ATG2, and LC3, were increased when TSGH8301 cells were treated by BCG. Interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinases 2 and 4 were also increased markedly in TSGH8301 cells. On the contrary, cellular apoptosis of TSGH8301 cells decreased by 34% when TLR7 activation was suppressed by the TLR antagonist IRS661 after BCG treatment. Our findings suggest that well differentiated TCC cells have higher expression of TLR7 and BCG can drive cellular death of TCC cells directly via TLR7 activation and related apoptotic pathway.

Li Y, Shi Y, McCaw L, et al.
Microenvironmental interleukin-6 suppresses toll-like receptor signaling in human leukemia cells through miR-17/19A.
Blood. 2015; 126(6):766-78 [PubMed] Related Publications
The regulation of toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling in a tumor microenvironment is poorly understood despite its importance in cancer biology. To address this problem, TLR7-responses of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells were studied in the presence and absence of a human stromal cell-line derived from a leukemic spleen. CLL cells alone produced high levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and proliferated in response to TLR7-agonists. A signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 -activating stromal factor, identified as interleukin (IL)-6, was found to upregulate microRNA (miR)-17 and miR-19a, target TLR7 and TNFA messenger RNA, and induce a state of tolerance to TLR7-agonists in CLL cells. Overexpression of the miR-17-92 cluster tolerized CLL cells directly and miR-17 and miR-19a antagomiRs restored TLR7-signaling. Inhibition of IL-6 signaling with antibodies or small-molecule Janus kinase inhibitors reversed tolerization and increased TLR7-stimulated CLL cell numbers in vitro and in NOD-SCIDγc (null) mice. These results suggest IL-6 can act as tumor suppressor in CLL by inhibiting TLR-signaling.

Lee J, Tian Y, Chan ST, et al.
TNF-α Induced by Hepatitis C Virus via TLR7 and TLR8 in Hepatocytes Supports Interferon Signaling via an Autocrine Mechanism.
PLoS Pathog. 2015; 11(5):e1004937 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Invasion by infectious pathogens can elicit a range of cytokine responses from host cells. These cytokines provide the initial host defense mechanism. In this report, we demonstrate that TNF-α, a pro-inflammatory cytokine, can be induced by hepatitis C virus (HCV) in its host cells in a biphasic manner. The initial induction of TNF-α by HCV was prompt and could be blocked by the antibody directed against the HCV E2 envelope protein and by chemicals that inhibit endocytosis, indicating the specificity of endocytic uptake of HCV in this induction. Further studies indicated that the induction of TNF-α was dependent on toll-like receptors 7 and 8 (TLR7/8) but not on other intracellular pattern recognition receptors. Consistently, siRNA-mediated gene silencing of the downstream effectors in the TLR7/8 signaling pathway including MyD88, IRAK1, TRAF6, TAK1 and p65 NF-κB suppressed the expression of TNF-α. The role of p65 NF-κB in the induction of TNF-α via transcriptional up-regulation was further confirmed by the chromatin immunoprecipitation assay. TNF-α induced by HCV could activate its own receptor TNFR1 on hepatocytes to suppress HCV replication. This suppressive effect of TNF-α on HCV was due to its role in supporting interferon signaling, as the suppression of its expression led to the loss of IFNAR2 and impaired interferon signaling and the induction of interferon-stimulated genes. In conclusion, our results indicate that hepatocytes can sense HCV infection via TLR7/8 to induce the expression of TNF-α, which inhibits HCV replication via an autocrine mechanism to support interferon signaling.

Jouhi L, Koljonen V, Böhling T, et al.
The expression of Toll-like receptors 2, 4, 5, 7 and 9 in Merkel cell carcinoma.
Anticancer Res. 2015; 35(4):1843-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
AIM: We sought to clarify whether the expression of toll-like receptors (TLR) in Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is linked to tumor and patient characteristics, especially the presence of Merkel cell polyoma virus (MCV).
MATERIALS AND METHODS: The study comprised of 128 patients with data on Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) status and clinical features were included in the study. Immunohistochemistry for TLR expression was performed on tissue microarray (TMA) slides.
RESULTS: TLR 2, 4, 5, 7 and 9 expression was noted in most of the tumor specimens. Decreased expression of TLR 9 correlated strongly with MCV positivity. Cytoplasmic TLR 2 expression correlated with small tumor size, while nuclear TLR 2 and TLR 5 expressions with larger tumors. Increased nuclear TLR 4 expression and decreased TLR 7 expression were associated with older age.
CONCLUSION: TLR 2, 4, 5, 7 and 9 appear to reflect certain clinicopathological variables and prognostic markers of MCC tumors.

Yu H, Zhang P, Yin X, et al.
Human BDCA2+CD123+CD56+ dendritic cells (DCs) related to blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm represent a unique myeloid DC subset.
Protein Cell. 2015; 6(4):297-306 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Dendritic cells (DCs) comprise two functionally distinct subsets: plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs) and myeloid DCs (mDCs). pDCs are specialized in rapid and massive secretion of type I interferon (IFN-I) in response to nucleic acids through Toll like receptor (TLR)-7 or TLR-9. In this report, we characterized a CD56(+) DC population that express typical pDC markers including CD123 and BDCA2 but produce much less IFN-I comparing with pDCs. In addition, CD56(+) DCs cluster together with mDCs but not pDCs by genome-wide transcriptional profiling. Accordingly, CD56(+) DCs functionally resemble mDCs by producing IL-12 upon TLR4 stimulation and priming naïve T cells without prior activation. These data suggest that the CD56(+) DCs represent a novel mDC subset mixed with some pDC features. A CD4(+)CD56(+) hematological malignancy was classified as blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN) due to its expression of characteristic molecules of pDCs. However, we demonstrated that BPDCN is closer to CD56(+) DCs than pDCs by global gene-expression profiling. Thus, we propose that the CD4(+)CD56(+) neoplasm may be a tumor counterpart of CD56(+) mDCs but not pDCs.

Wang ST, Huang SW, Kao JK, et al.
Imiquimod-induced AMPK activation causes translation attenuation and apoptosis but not autophagy.
J Dermatol Sci. 2015; 78(2):108-16 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a principal intracellular energy sensor, plays a crucial role in cell growth, proliferation, apoptosis and autophagy. Imiquimod (IMQ) directly exhibits anti-tumor activity through the induction of apoptosis and autophagic cell death.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the role of AMPK in IMQ-induced apoptosis and autophagy.
METHODS: The phosphorylation of AMPK and its substrates was detected by immunoblotting. ATP contents were analyzed by an ATP bioluminescence assay. The upstream signaling for AMPK activation was dissected by examination of TLR7/8 expression, over-expression of TLR7/8, the addition of AMPK kinase inhibitors, and the genetic silencing of Myd88 and LKB1. The role of AMPK activation in IMQ-induced autophagy and apoptosis was assessed by inhibiting AMPK, genetically silencing AMPK and over-expressing AMPK dominant-negative mutants. Autophagy and apoptosis were evaluated by a DNA content assay, immunoblotting, EGFP-LC3 puncta detection and acridine orange staining.
RESULTS: IMQ could activate AMPK and autophagy in cancer cells not expressing TLR7/8. IMQ caused ATP depletion and induced LKB1-mediated AMPK activation. The down-regulation of AMPK activity via pharmacological inhibition and genetic silencing resulted in reduced IMQ-induced apoptosis but did not influence autophagy, and this rescue effect was associated with the retention of translation factor activity and anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family member Mcl-1 protein expression levels.
CONCLUSION: IMQ induces AMPK activation independent of TLR7/8 expression, resulting in translation inhibition and subsequent apoptosis through ATP depletion and LKB1 signaling, in skin tumor cells.

Cheng S, Liu J, Zhang Y, et al.
Association detection between genetic variants in the microRNA binding sites of toll-like receptors signaling pathway genes and bladder cancer susceptibility.
Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2014; 7(11):8118-26 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Bladder cancer (BCa) is the second most common urological malignancy, and the incidence of BCa has dramatically increased recently. Various toll-like receptors (TLRs) signaling pathway proteins were proven to be associated with BCa susceptibility. However, the effect of genetic variants in TLRs signaling pathway genes on risk of BCa has not been elucidated clearly. Previous studies mainly focused on the coding region of target genes, while in this study, polymorphisms in the non-coding region, microRNA (miRNA) binding sites were investigated as potential targets. We used bioinformatics approach to screen 100 BCa related TLRs signaling pathway genes. Candidate polymorphisms were select in this region and 8 polymorphisms were confirmed. Rs72552316, located at the 3'UTR of the TLR7 gene, exhibited significant association with risk of BCa, indicating a strong relationship with decreased risk of BCa (P ≤ 0.0001). Furthermore, no association was detected between all the polymorphisms and recurrence-free survival time of overall study population or non-muscle invasive BCa subgroups. In conclusion, rs72552316 in the miRNA binding sites of TLR7 might contribute to BCa susceptibility, and this finding provided new targets for high BCa risk population screening.

Stefanidis K, Patta J, Pergialiotis V, et al.
Imiquimod treatment effectively reduces the percentage of viable cells in a cervical carcinoma cell line but does not affect the expression of HLA-G or OCT-4.
J Stem Cells. 2015; 10(4):217-23 [PubMed] Related Publications
OBJECTIVE: Cervical cancer is a challenging pathologic entity because of its lack of response to conventional chemotherapy. Imiquimod is a synthetic analogue which seems to activate skin immune cells, acting as a Toll-like receptor 7 agonist. Previous studies in the field of cervical cancer have showed that its application may play a significant role in the treatment of cervical HPV infection with or without cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). In the present study we investigate the therapeutic potential of imiquimod in a cervical carcinoma cell line and evaluate whether the expression of HLA-G and OCT-4 is altered during this treatment.
METHODS: HeLa cells were cultured in Dulbecco's modified Eagle medium and treated with 200 μl of imiquimod diluted solution (50 μg/ml). Cultured cells were allocated in four groups 1) control, 2) DMSO only, 3) DMSO and imiquimod for 48 hours, 4) DMSO and imiquimod for 72 hours.
RESULTS: In the imiquimod treated cell lines we observed a significant reduction of viable cells at 48 and 72 hours (p = .001). The relative expression analysis of OCT-4 and HLA-G genes at 48 and 72 hours did not reveal significant differences after imiquimod treatment.
CONCLUSION: Imiquimod effectively reduces the percentage of viable HeLa cells and should be further evaluated in future clinical trials. This effect takes place as of 48 hours after its initial application and seems to persist at least until 72 hours. HLA-G and OCT-4 expression is not affected by this type of treatment.

Akhter A, Masir N, Elyamany G, et al.
Differential expression of Toll-like receptor (TLR) and B cell receptor (BCR) signaling molecules in primary diffuse large B-cell lymphoma of the central nervous system.
J Neurooncol. 2015; 121(2):289-96 [PubMed] Related Publications
Primary diffuse large B-cell lymphoma of the central nervous system (CNS DLBCL) is a distinct and aggressive lymphoma that is confined to CNS. Since, central nervous system is barrier-protected and immunologically silent; role of TLR/BCR signaling in pathogenesis and biology of CNS DLBCL is intriguing. Genomic mutations in key regulators of TLR/BCR signaling pathway (MYD88/CD79B/CARD11) have recently been reported in this disease. These observations raised possible implications in novel targeted therapies; however, expression pattern of molecules related to TLR/BCR pathways in this lymphoma remains unknown. We have analyzed the expression of 19 genes encoding TLR/BCR pathways and targets in CNS DLBCLs (n = 20) by Nanostring nCounter™ analysis and compared it with expression patterns in purified reactive B-lymphocytes and systemic diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) (n = 20). Relative expression of TLR4, TLR5, TLR9, CD79B and BLNK was higher in CNS DLBCLs than in control B-lymphocytes; where as TLR7, MALT1, BCL10, CD79A and LYN was lower in CNS DLBCLs (P < 0.0001). When compared with systemic DLBCL samples, higher expression of TLR9, CD79B, CARD11, LYN and BLNK was noted in CNS DLBCL (>1.5 fold change; P < 0.01). The B cell receptor molecules like BLNK and CD79B were also associated with higher expression of MYD88 dependent TLRs (TLR4/5/9). In conclusion, we have shown over expression of TLR/BCR related genes or their targets, where genomic mutations have commonly been identified in CNS DLBCL. We have also demonstrated that TLR over expression closely relate with up regulation of genes associated with BCR pathway like CD79B/BLNK and CARD11, which play an important role in NF-kB pathway activation. Our results provide an important insight into the possibility of TLR and/or B-cell receptor signaling molecules as possible therapeutic targets in CNS DLBCL.

Sioud M
Overcoming the challenges of siRNA activation of innate immunity: design better therapeutic siRNAs.
Methods Mol Biol. 2015; 1218:301-19 [PubMed] Related Publications
RNA interference (RNAi) is a conserved regulatory mechanism of posttranscriptional gene silencing triggered by either endogenously (e.g. microRNAs) or exogenously double-stranded RNA as small interfering (si) RNAs. To date, the use of siRNA (21-nt) has become a standard laboratory tool to silence gene expression in mammalian cells in-vitro and in-vivo. The methodology also holds promise for treating a diversity of human diseases. However, one of the challenges of making siRNAs as therapeutic drugs includes the activation of innate immunity and silencing of unwanted genes. Therefore, the use of siRNAs in functional genomics and human therapies depends on the development of strategies to overcome siRNA unwanted effects. This chapter highlights some efficient strategies aimed at separating gene silencing from immunostimulation and improving siRNA gene silencing specificity.

Iversen PO, Sioud M
Engineering therapeutic cancer vaccines that activate antitumor immunity.
Methods Mol Biol. 2015; 1218:263-8 [PubMed] Related Publications
Vaccination represents one the most effective methods of preventing disease. Because dendritic cells (DCs) are the most efficient antigen presenting cells, exploiting their plasticity is likely to yield improved therapeutic vaccines. Herein, we applied a novel DC-based vaccine (i.e., DC loaded with leukemia antigens that have been transfected with an IL-10 siRNA capable of coordinately activating DCs via TLR7/8) in a rat model of acute myeloid leukemia. Leukemic rats treated with this new vaccine had less leukemic cell mass in their bone marrows and less extramedullar dissemination of the leukemic disease examined postmortem compared with rats given the control vaccine. Collectively, the new strategy demonstrates the possible usefulness of dual siRNAs as an immunomodulatory drug with antileukemic properties.

Ignatz-Hoover JJ, Wang H, Moreton SA, et al.
The role of TLR8 signaling in acute myeloid leukemia differentiation.
Leukemia. 2015; 29(4):918-26 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is an aggressive disease with a poor 5-year survival of 21% that is characterized by the differentiation arrest of immature myeloid cells. For a rare subtype of AML (acute promyeloctyic leukemia, 5-10% of cases), all-trans retinoic acid therapy removes the differentiation block, yielding over a 90% cure rate. However, this treatment is not effective for the other 90-95% of AML patients, suggesting that new differentiation strategies are needed. Interestingly, differentiation is induced in normal hematopoietic cells through Toll-like receptor (TLR) stimulation and TLRs are expressed on AML cells. We present evidence that the TLR8 activation promotes AML differentiation and growth inhibition in a TLR8/MyD88/p38-dependent manner. We also show that that TLR7/TLR8 agonist, R848, considerably impairs the growth of human AML cells in immunodeficient mice. Our data suggests TLR8 activation has direct anti-leukemic effects independent of its immunomodulating properties that are currently under investigation for cancer therapy. Taken together, our results suggest that treatment with TLR8 agonists may be a promising new therapeutic strategy for AML.

Vaz J, Andersson R
Intervention on toll-like receptors in pancreatic cancer.
World J Gastroenterol. 2014; 20(19):5808-17 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is a devastating disease with pronounced morbidity and a high mortality rate. Currently available treatments lack convincing cost-efficiency determinations and are in most cases not associated with relevant success rate. Experimental stimulation of the immune system in murine PDA models has revealed some promising results. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are pillars of the immune system that have been linked to several forms of malignancy, including lung, breast and colon cancer. In humans, TLRs are expressed in the pancreatic cancer tissue and in several cancer cell lines, whereas they are not expressed in the normal pancreas. In the present review, we explore the current knowledge concerning the role of different TLRs associated to PDA. Even if almost all known TLRs are expressed in the pancreatic cancer microenvironment, there are only five TLRs suggested as possible therapeutic targets. Most data points at TLR2 and TLR9 as effective tumor markers and agonists could potentially be used as e.g. future adjuvant therapies. The elucidation of the role of TLR3 in PDA is only in its initial phase. The inhibition/blockage of TLR4-related pathways has shown some promising effects, but there are still many steps left before TLR4 inhibitors can be considered as possible therapeutic agents. Finally, TLR7 antagonists seem to be potential candidates for therapy. Independent of their potential in immunotherapies, all existing data indicate that TLRs are strongly involved in the pathophysiology and development of PDA.

Aspord C, Tramcourt L, Leloup C, et al.
Imiquimod inhibits melanoma development by promoting pDC cytotoxic functions and impeding tumor vascularization.
J Invest Dermatol. 2014; 134(10):2551-61 [PubMed] Related Publications
Imiquimod (IMQ) is a synthetic Toll-like receptor (TLR7/8) ligand that can trigger antiviral and antitumor activities. Despite evidence of potent therapeutic effects, the clinical use of IMQ in melanoma is impeded by incomplete understanding of its mechanisms of action. Mice and humans differ in many aspects of immunity, including TLR7 expression patterns, thus impeding the use of mouse models in translating discoveries into clinical applications. In this article, we investigated the mechanisms behind IMQ effects in vivo in a human context of melanoma and immunity using an innovative melanoma-bearing humanized mouse model. In this model, IMQ strongly inhibited melanoma tumor development through prompt mobilization of plasmacytoid dendritic cells and by triggering their cytotoxic functions, and through upregulation of expression of type 1 IFN response genes. IMQ also drastically impeded tumor vascularization by inducing the downregulation of angiogenic factors vascular endothelial growth factor, angiogenin, IL-8, and fibroblast growth factor. Our results revealed the short- and long-term multifactorial effects of IMQ converging toward inhibition of melanoma development. By providing a better understanding of the mechanisms of action of IMQ in melanoma, our study opens the way for its further clinical use in the treatment of metastatic melanoma.

Guo Q, Lan P, Yu X, et al.
Immunotherapy for hepatoma using a dual-function vector with both immunostimulatory and pim-3-silencing effects.
Mol Cancer Ther. 2014; 13(6):1503-13 [PubMed] Related Publications
Tumorigenesis is an immortalization process in which the growth of normal cells is uncontrolled and programmed cell death is suppressed. Molecular biologic and immunologic studies have revealed that the aberrant expression of some proto-oncogenes boosts proliferation and inhibits apoptosis, which is vital for tumor development. The hypofunction of the host immune system also drives the development and metastasis of malignant tumors. Pim-3, a member of the Pim family, is aberrantly expressed in several cancers. Data suggest that Pim-3 inhibits apoptosis by phosphorylating the proapoptotic BH3-only protein Bad. Here, we constructed a dual-function small hairpin RNA (shRNA) vector containing an shRNA targeting Pim-3 and a TLR7-stimulating ssRNA. Stimulation with this bi-functional vector in vitro promoted significant apoptosis of Hepa1-6 cells by regulating the expression of apoptosis-related proteins and induced secretion of type I IFNs. Most importantly, this bi-functional vector more effectively inhibited subcutaneous Hepa1-6 cell growth than did single shRNA and ssRNA treatment in vivo. Natural killer (NK), CD4(+) T, and CD8(+) T cells and macrophages were required for effective tumor suppression, and CD4(+) T cells were shown to play a helper role in the activation of NK cells, possibly by regulating the secretion of Th1 or Th2 cytokines. This ssRNA-shRNA bi-functional vector may represent a promising approach for tumor therapy.

Chatzouli M, Ntoufa S, Papakonstantinou N, et al.
Heterogeneous functional effects of concomitant B cell receptor and TLR stimulation in chronic lymphocytic leukemia with mutated versus unmutated Ig genes.
J Immunol. 2014; 192(10):4518-24 [PubMed] Related Publications
We recently reported that chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) subgroups with distinct clonotypic BCRs present discrete patterns of TLR expression, function, and/or tolerance. In this study, to explore whether specific types of BCR/TLR collaboration exist in CLL, we studied the effect of single versus concomitant BCR and/or TLR stimulation on CLL cells from mutated (M-CLL) and unmutated CLL (U-CLL) cases. We stimulated negatively isolated CLL cells by using anti-IgM, imiquimod, and CpG oligodeoxynucleotide for BCR, TLR7, and TLR9, respectively, alone or in combination for different time points. After in vitro culture in the absence of stimulation, differences in p-ERK were identified at any time point, with higher p-ERK levels in U-CLL versus M-CLL. Pronounced p-ERK induction was seen by single stimulation in U-CLL, whereas BCR/TLR synergism was required in M-CLL, in which the effect was overall limited in scale. An opposite pattern was observed regarding induction of apoptosis, as studied by Western blotting for the cleaved fragment of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, and the active isoform of caspase-8, with M-CLL responding even to single stimulation, contrasting with U-CLL that showed minimal response. Our findings suggest that concomitant engagement of BCR and TLR leads to differential responses in CLL depending on the mutational status of the BCR. Differential intensity and duration of responses in M-CLL versus U-CLL indicates that the differences in signal transduction between the two subgroups may be primarily quantitative rather than qualitative.

Huang SW, Kao JK, Wu CY, et al.
Targeting aerobic glycolysis and HIF-1alpha expression enhance imiquimod-induced apoptosis in cancer cells.
Oncotarget. 2014; 5(5):1363-81 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Tumor cells rely on aerobic glycolysis to maintain unconstrained cell growth and proliferation. Imiquimod (IMQ), a synthetic Toll-like receptor (TLR) 7/8 ligand, exerts anti-tumor effects directly by inducing cell death in cancer cells and/or indirectly by activating cellular immune responses against tumor cells. However, whether IMQ modulates glucose metabolism pathways remains unclear. In this study, we demonstrated that IMQ can enhance aerobic glycolysis by up-regulating HIF-1α expression at the transcriptional and translational levels via ROS mediated STAT3- and Akt-dependent pathways, independent of TLR7/8 signaling. The genetic silencing of HIF-1α not only repressed IMQ-induced aerobic glycolysis but also sensitized cells to IMQ-induced apoptosis due to faster ATP and Mcl-1 depletion. Moreover, the glucose analog 2-DG and the Hsp90 inhibitor 17-AAG, which destabilizes the HIF-1α protein, synergized with IMQ to induce tumor cell apoptosis in vitro and significantly inhibited tumor growth in vivo. Thus, we hypothesize that the IMQ-induced up-regulation of HIF-1α and aerobic glycolysis is a protective response to the metabolic stress generated by IMQ treatment, and thus, co-treatment with inhibitors of HIF-1α and/or glycolysis may be a useful therapeutic strategy to enhance the anti-tumor effects of IMQ in clinical settings.

He WA, Calore F, Londhe P, et al.
Microvesicles containing miRNAs promote muscle cell death in cancer cachexia via TLR7.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014; 111(12):4525-9 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression and, in cancers, are often packaged within secreted microvesicles. The cachexia syndrome is a debilitating state of cancer that predominantly results from the loss of skeletal muscle mass, which is in part associated with apoptosis. How tumors promote apoptosis in distally located skeletal muscles has not been explored. Using both tumor cell lines and patient samples, we show that tumor-derived microvesicles induce apoptosis of skeletal muscle cells. This proapoptotic activity is mediated by a microRNA cargo, miR-21, which signals through the Toll-like 7 receptor (TLR7) on murine myoblasts to promote cell death. Furthermore, tumor microvesicles and miR-21 require c-Jun N-terminal kinase activity to regulate this apoptotic response. Together, these results describe a unique pathway by which tumor cells promote muscle loss, which might provide a great insight into elucidating the causes and treatment options of cancer cachexia.

Wolff F, Loipetzberger A, Gruber W, et al.
Imiquimod directly inhibits Hedgehog signalling by stimulating adenosine receptor/protein kinase A-mediated GLI phosphorylation.
Oncogene. 2013; 32(50):5574-81 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Imiquimod (IMQ), a nucleoside analogue of the imidazoquinoline family, is used in the topical treatment of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and other skin diseases. It is reported to be a TLR7 and TLR8 agonist and, as such, initiates a Th1 immune response by activating sentinel cells in the vicinity of the tumour. BCC is a hedgehog (HH)-driven malignancy with oncogenic glioma-associated oncogene (GLI) signalling activated in a ligand-independent manner. Here we show that IMQ can also directly repress HH signalling by negatively modulating GLI activity in BCC and medulloblastoma cells. Further, we provide evidence that the repressive effect of IMQ on HH signalling is not dependent on TLR/MYD88 signalling. Our results suggest a mechanism for IMQ engaging adenosine receptors (ADORAs) to control GLI signalling. Pharmacological activation of ADORA with either an ADORA agonist or IMQ resulted in a protein kinase A (PKA)-mediated GLI phosphorylation and reduction in GLI activator levels. The activation of PKA and HH pathway target gene downregulation in response to IMQ were abrogated by ADORA inhibition. Furthermore, activated Smoothened signalling, which positively signals to GLI transcription factors, could be effectively counteracted by IMQ. These results reveal a previously unknown mode of action of IMQ in the treatment of BCC and also suggest a role for ADORAs in the regulation of oncogenic HH signalling.

Han JH, Park SY, Kim JB, et al.
TLR7 expression is decreased during tumour progression in transgenic adenocarcinoma of mouse prostate mice and its activation inhibits growth of prostate cancer cells.
Am J Reprod Immunol. 2013; 70(4):317-26 [PubMed] Related Publications
PROBLEM: Although various Toll-like receptors (TLRs) have been associated with immune response and tumorigenesis in the prostate cells, little is known about the role of TLR7. Accordingly, we examined the expression of TLR7 during tumour progression of TRMAP (transgenic mouse model for prostate cancer) mice and its role on cell growth.
METHOD OF STUDY: Toll-like receptor7 expression was examined by RT-polymerase chain reaction (PCR), Western blot, and immunohistochemistry. Cell growth was examined by MTT assay. Colony formation was investigated by crystal violet staining.
RESULTS: Strong expression of TLR7 was detected in the normal prostate epithelia of Wild-type (WT) mice, but not in TLR7-deficient mice. In contrast, TLR7 expression was weak in transgenic adenocarcinoma of mouse prostate (TRAMP)-C2 cells, as compared with murine bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDMs). Moreover, TLR7 mRNA was markedly expressed in RWPE-1 cells (non-cancerous prostate epithelial cells), but not in PC3 and DU145 (prostate cancer cells). Immunohistochemically, TLR7 expression gradually decreased in TRAMP mice depending on the pathologic grade of the prostate cells. TLR7 agonists increased both the gene and protein expression of TLR7 and promoted production of proinflammatory cytokines/chemokines and IFN-β gene expression in prostate cancer cell lines. Moreover, loxoribine inhibited the growth and colony formation of TRAMP-C2 cells dependent of TLR7.
CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that TLR7 may participate in tumour suppression in the prostate cells.

Sahingur SE, Xia XJ, Voth SC, et al.
Increased nucleic Acid receptor expression in chronic periodontitis.
J Periodontol. 2013; 84(10):e48-57 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Nucleic acid sensing has emerged as one of the important components of the immune system triggering inflammation. The aim of this study is to determine the expression of bacterial DNA sensors, including Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR-9), DNA-dependent activator of interferon-regulatory factors (DAI), and absent in melanoma 2 (AIM2) in chronic periodontitis (CP versus healthy) (H) tissues.
METHODS: Thirty-five CP and 27 H gingival biopsies were included. Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction was performed to determine mRNA levels of AIM2, DAI, and TLRs (TLR-1 through TLR-9). The difference in gene expression for each sensor between CP and H tissues was calculated using analysis of covariance. The Spearman test was used to determine correlations among innate receptors. The expression of TLR-9, AIM2, and DAI in gingival tissues was further confirmed using immunohistochemistry.
RESULTS: The present results reveal statistically significant upregulation of TLR-9 (P <0.006), DAI (P <0.001), and TLR-8 (P <0.01) in CP tissues compared to H sites. Although mRNA expression was not changed significantly between groups for other receptors, the present results reveal significant correlations between receptors (P <0.05), suggesting that cooperation between multiple components of the host immune system may influence the overall response. Immunohistochemistry further confirmed expression of TLR-9, AIM2, and DAI in gingival tissues.
CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights a possible role for nucleic acid receptors in periodontal inflammation. Future investigations will determine whether cytoplasmic receptors and their ligands can be targeted to improve clinical outcomes in periodontitis.

Abdi J, Mutis T, Garssen J, Redegeld F
Characterization of the Toll-like receptor expression profile in human multiple myeloma cells.
PLoS One. 2013; 8(4):e60671 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Expression and function of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) in multiple myeloma (MM) has recently become the focus of several studies. Knowledge of expression and biology of these receptors in MM will provide us with a new insight into the role of an inflammatory environment in disease progression or pathogenesis of MM. However, to date a quite heterogeneous expression pattern of TLRs in MM particularly at gene level has been described while information on the TLR expression at the protein level is largely unavailable. In this study, we investigated the TLR expression in human myeloma cell lines (HMCLs) Fravel, L363, UM6, UM9, OPM1, OPM2, U266, RPMI 8226, XG1, and NCI H929 and primary cells from MM patients at both mRNA and protein level (western blot and flow cytometry). We found that all cell lines and primary cells expressed TLR1, TLR3, TLR4, TLR7, TLR8, and TLR9 mRNA and protein. TLR2 and TLR5 were expressed by the majority of HMCLs at mRNA but were not detectable at protein level, while primary samples showed a low level of TLR2, TLR3 and TLR5 protein expression. Our results indicate that MM cells express a broad range of TLRs with a degree of disparity between gene and protein expression pattern. The clear expression of TLRs in MM cells indicates a propensity for responding to tumor-induced inflammatory signals, which seem inevitable in the MM bone marrow environment.

Chen X, Liang H, Zhang J, et al.
microRNAs are ligands of Toll-like receptors.
RNA. 2013; 19(6):737-9 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
It has long been known that microRNAs (miRNAs) can regulate target gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. Recent studies, however, have revealed that miRNAs can also be transported from donor cells to recipient cells, in which these RNAs function in a novel manner as ligands of Toll-like receptors. Here, we review the latest findings on these unconventional miRNAs, with special emphasis on their biological significance.

Lescaille G, Pitoiset F, Macedo R, et al.
Efficacy of DNA vaccines forming e7 recombinant retroviral virus-like particles for the treatment of human papillomavirus-induced cancers.
Hum Gene Ther. 2013; 24(5):533-44 [PubMed] Related Publications
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is involved in the development of anogenital tumors and also in the development of oropharyngeal head and neck carcinomas, where HPV-16, expressing the E6 and E7 oncoproteins, is the most frequent serotype. Although vaccines encoding L1 and L2 capsid HPV proteins are efficient for the prevention of HPV infection, they are inadequate for treating established tumors. Hence, development of innovative vaccine therapies targeting E6/E7 is important for controlling HPV-induced cancers. We have engineered a nononcogenic mutated E7-specific plasmo-retroVLP vaccine (pVLP-E7), consisting of plasmid DNA, that is able to form recombinant retrovirus-based virus-like particles (VLPs) that display E7 antigen into murine leukemia virus Gag proteins pseudotyped with vesicular stomatitis virus envelope glycoprotein (VSV-G). pVLP-E7 vaccinations were studied for their ability to generate specific immune responses and for induction of protective immunity against tumor cell challenge in preventive and therapeutic models. The produced VLPs induce the maturation of human dendritic cells in vitro and mount specific E7 T cell responses. Intradermic vaccinations of mice with pVLP-E7 show their efficacy to generate antigen-specific T cell responses, to prevent and protect animals from early TC-1 tumor development compared with standard DNA or VLP immunizations. The vaccine efficacy was also evaluated for advanced tumors in mice vaccinated at various time after the injection of TC-1 cells. Data show that pVLP-E7 vaccination can cure mice with already established tumors only when combined with Toll-like receptor-7 (TLR7) and TLR9 agonists. Our findings provide evidence that pVLPs, combining the advantages of DNA and VLP vaccines, appear to be a promising strategy for the treatment of HPV-induced cancers.

Walter A, Schäfer M, Cecconi V, et al.
Aldara activates TLR7-independent immune defence.
Nat Commun. 2013; 4:1560 [PubMed] Related Publications
Aldara is a cream used for topical treatment of non-melanoma skin cancer, and is thought to act through stimulation of anti-tumour immunity. The active ingredient, imiquimod, has been shown to stimulate toll-like receptor 7. Aldara also induces psoriasis-like lesions when applied to naive murine skin, and as such is used as a mouse model for psoriasis. Here we find that in naive murine skin, Aldara induces inflammation largely independently of toll-like receptor 7. Surprisingly, inflammasome activation, keratinocyte death and interleukin 1 release also occur in response to the vehicle cream in the absence of imiquimod. We show that isostearic acid, a major component of the vehicle, promotes inflammasome activation in cultured keratinocytes, and so may contribute to the observed effects of Aldara on murine skin. Aldara therefore stimulates at least two immune pathways independently, and both imiquimod and vehicle are required for a full inflammatory response. Although it remains to be tested, it is possible that imiquimod-independent effects also contribute to the therapeutic efficacy of Aldara.

Chen YC, Hsiao CC, Chen KD, et al.
Peripheral immune cell gene expression changes in advanced non-small cell lung cancer patients treated with first line combination chemotherapy.
PLoS One. 2013; 8(2):e57053 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
INTRODUCTION: Increasing evidence has shown that immune surveillance is compromised in a tumor-promoting microenvironment for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and can be restored by appropriate chemotherapy.
METHODS: To test this hypothesis, we analyzed microarray gene expression profiles of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 30 patients with newly-diagnosed advanced stage NSCLC, and 20 age-, sex-, and co-morbidity-matched healthy controls. All the patients received a median of four courses of chemotherapy with cisplatin and gemcitabine for a 28-day cycle as first line treatment.
RESULTS: Sixty-nine differentially expressed genes between the patients and controls, and 59 differentially expressed genes before and after chemotherapy were identified. The IL4 pathway was significantly enriched in both tumor progression and chemotherapy signatures. CXCR4 and IL2RG were down-regulated, while DOK2 and S100A15 were up-regulated in the patients, and expressions of all four genes were partially or totally reversed after chemotherapy. Real-time quantitative RT-PCR for the four up-regulated (S100A15, DOK2) and down-regulated (TLR7, TOP1MT) genes in the patients, and the six up-regulated (TLR7, CRISP3, TOP1MT) and down-regulated (S100A15, DOK2, IL2RG) genes after chemotherapy confirmed the validity of the microarray results. Further immunohistochemical analysis of the paraffin-embedded lung cancer tissues identified strong S100A15 nuclear staining not only in stage IV NSCLC as compared to stage IIIB NSCLC (p = 0.005), but also in patients with stable or progressive disease as compared to those with a partial response (p = 0.032). A high percentage of S100A15 nuclear stained cells (HR 1.028, p = 0.01) was the only independent factor associated with three-year overall mortality.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest a potential role of the IL4 pathway in immune surveillance of advanced stage NSCLC, and immune potentiation of combination chemotherapy. S100A15 may serve as a potential biomarker for tumor staging, and a predictor of poor prognosis in NSCLC.

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