Cleavage of Fibrinogen by Proteinases Elicits Allergic Responses Through Toll-Like Receptor 4

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Science  16 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6147, pp. 792-796
DOI: 10.1126/science.1240342

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Allergy Induction

Proteinases found in fungi and other allergens elicit allergic inflammation, but how they do so is far from clear. It is also unclear how pattern recognition receptors, which detect invading microbes, drive allergic inflammation. Millien et al. (p. 792) shed light on this puzzle by showing that, in mice, induction of allergic inflammation requires proteinase-dependent cleavage of the clotting factor fibrinogen, leading to generation of a ligand that activates the pattern-recognition receptor, Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). Cleaved fibrinogen signals through TLR4 to activate the innate immune system and recruit cells to the airway, which drives both allergic responses and antifungal immunity.


Proteinases and the innate immune receptor Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) are essential for expression of allergic inflammation and diseases such as asthma. A mechanism that links these inflammatory mediators is essential for explaining the fundamental basis of allergic disease but has been elusive. Here, we demonstrate that TLR4 is activated by airway proteinase activity to initiate both allergic airway disease and antifungal immunity. These outcomes were induced by proteinase cleavage of the clotting protein fibrinogen, yielding fibrinogen cleavage products that acted as TLR4 ligands on airway epithelial cells and macrophages. Thus, allergic airway inflammation represents an antifungal defensive strategy that is driven by fibrinogen cleavage and TLR4 activation. These findings clarify the molecular basis of allergic disease and suggest new therapeutic strategies.

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