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posted on 21.02.2018, 04:06 by Andrea N. Loes, Jamie T. Bridgham, Michael J. Harms

Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) induces inflammation in response to both pathogen- and host-derived molecules. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) recognition by TLR4 has been shown to occur across the amniotes, but endogenous signaling through TLR4 has not been validated outside of placental mammals. To determine whether endogenous danger signaling is also shared across amniotes, we studied the evolution of TLR4-activation by the calgranulin proteins (S100A8, S100A9, and S100A12), a clade of host molecules that potently activate TLR4 in placental mammals. We performed phylogenetic and syntenic analysis and found MRP-126—a gene in birds and reptiles—is likely orthologous to the mammalian calgranulins. We then used an ex vivo TLR4 activation assay to establish that calgranulin pro-inflammatory activity is not specific to placental mammals, but is also exhibited by representative marsupial and sauropsid species. This activity is strongly dependent on the cofactors CD14 and MD-2 for all species studied, suggesting a conserved mode of activation across the amniotes. Ortholog complementation experiments between the calgranulins, TLR4, CD14, and MD-2 revealed extensive lineage specific-coevolution and multi-way interactions between components that are necessary for the activation of NF-κB signaling by calgranulins and LPS. Our work demonstrates that calgranulin activation of TLR4 evolved at least ~320 million years ago and has been conserved in the amniote innate immune system.