Toll-like receptor 4 is required for optimal development of Th2 immune responses: role of dendritic cells.
LPS potently induces dendritic cell maturation and the production of proinflammatory cytokines, such as IL-12, by activation of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). Since IL-12 is important for the generation and maintenance of Th1 responses and may also inhibit Th2 cell generation from naive CD4 T cell precursors, it has been inferred that TLR4 signaling would have similar effects via the induction of IL-12 secretion. Surprisingly, we found that TLR4-defective mice subjected to sensitization and pulmonary challenge with a protein allergen had reductions in airway inflammation with eosinophils, allergen-specific IgE levels, and Th2 cytokine production, compared with wild-type mice. These reduced responses were attributable, at least in part, to decreased dendritic cell function: Dendritic cells from TLR4-defective mice expressed lower levels of CD86, a costimulatory molecule important for Th2 responses. They also induced less Th2 cytokine production by antigenically naive CD4 T cells in vitro and mediated diminished CD4 T cell Ag-specific pulmonary inflammation in vivo. These results indicate that TLR4 is required for optimal Th2 responses to Ags from nonpathogenic sources and suggest a role for TLR4 ligands, such as LPS derived from commensal bacteria or endogenously derived ligands, in maturation of the innate immune system before pathogen exposure.