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      Acquisition of Adult-Like TLR4 and TLR9 Responses during the First Year of Life

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          Characteristics of the human neonatal immune system are thought to be responsible for heightened susceptibility to infectious pathogens and poor responses to vaccine antigens. Using cord blood as a source of immune cells, many reports indicate that the response of neonatal monocytes and dendritic cells (DC) to Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists differs significantly from that of adult cells. Herein, we analyzed the evolution of these responses within the first year of life.

          Methodology/Principal Findings

          Blood samples from children (0, 3, 6, 9, 12 month old) and healthy adults were stimulated ex vivo with bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS, TLR4 agonist) or CpG oligonucleotides (TLR9 agonist). We determined phenotypic maturation of monocytes, myeloid (m) and plasmacytoid (p) DC and production of cytokines in the culture supernatants. We observed that surface expression of CD80 and HLA-DR reaches adult levels within the first 3 months of life for mDCs and 6–9 months of life for monocytes and pDCs. In response to LPS, production of TNF-α, IP-10 and IL-12p70 reached adult levels between 6–9 months of life. In response to CpG stimulation, production of type I IFN-dependent chemokines (IP-10 and CXCL9) gradually increased with age but was still limited in 1-year old infants as compared to adult controls. Finally, cord blood samples stimulated with CpG ODN produced large amounts of IL-6, IL-8, IL-1β and IL-10, a situation that was not observed for 3 month-old infants.


          The first year of life represents a critical period during which adult-like levels of TLR responses are reached for most but not all cytokine responses.

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          Most cited references 22

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          Innate immunity of the newborn: basic mechanisms and clinical correlates.

           Ofer Levy (2007)
          The fetus and newborn face a complex set of immunological demands, including protection against infection, avoidance of harmful inflammatory immune responses that can lead to pre-term delivery, and balancing the transition from a sterile intra-uterine environment to a world that is rich in foreign antigens. These demands shape a distinct neonatal innate immune system that is biased against the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This bias renders newborns at risk of infection and impairs responses to many vaccines. This Review describes innate immunity in newborns and discusses how this knowledge might be used to prevent and treat infection in this vulnerable population.
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            Neonatal innate TLR-mediated responses are distinct from those of adults.

            The human neonate and infant are unduly susceptible to infection with a wide variety of microbes. This susceptibility is thought to reflect differences from adults in innate and adaptive immunity, but the nature of these differences is incompletely characterized. The innate immune response directs the subsequent adaptive immune response after integrating information from TLRs and other environmental sensors. We set out to provide a comprehensive analysis defining differences in response to TLR ligation between human neonates and adults. In response to most TLR ligands, neonatal innate immune cells, including monocytes and conventional and plasmacytoid dendritic cells produced less IL-12p70 and IFN-alpha (and consequently induced less IFN-gamma), moderately less TNF-alpha, but as much or even more IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-23, and IL-10 than adult cells. At the single-cell level, neonatal innate cells generally were less capable of producing multiple cytokines simultaneously, i.e., were less polyfunctional. Overall, our data suggest a robust if not enhanced capacity of the neonate vs the adult white-blood cell TLR-mediated response to support Th17- and Th2-type immunity, which promotes defense against extracellular pathogens, but a reduced capacity to support Th1-type responses, which promote defense against intracellular pathogens.
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              Selective impairment of TLR-mediated innate immunity in human newborns: neonatal blood plasma reduces monocyte TNF-alpha induction by bacterial lipopeptides, lipopolysaccharide, and imiquimod, but preserves the response to R-848.

              Newborns are at increased risk of overwhelming infection, yet the mechanisms underlying this susceptibility are incompletely defined. In this study we report a striking 1- to 3-log decrease in sensitivity of monocytes in human neonatal cord blood, compared with monocytes in adult peripheral blood, to the TNF-alpha-inducing effect of multiple TLR ligands, including bacterial lipopeptides (BLPs), LPS, and the imidazoquinoline compound, imiquimod. In marked contrast, TNF-alpha release in response to R-848, a TLR ligand that is a congener of imiquimod, was equivalent in newborn and adult blood. Differences in ligand-induced TNF-alpha release correlated with divergent ligand-induced changes in monocyte TNF-alpha mRNA levels. Newborn and adult monocytes did not differ in basal mRNA or protein expression of TLRs or mRNA expression of functionally related molecules. Newborn monocytes demonstrated diminished LPS-induced, but equivalent R-848-induced, phosphorylation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase and altered BLP- and LPS-induced acute modulation of cognate receptors, suggesting that the mechanism accounting for the observed differences may be localized proximal to ligand recognition by surface TLRs. Remarkably, newborn plasma conferred substantially reduced BLP-, LPS-, and imiquimod-induced TNF-alpha release on adult monocytes without any effect on R-848-induced TNF-alpha release, reflecting differences in a plasma factor(s) distinct from soluble CD14. Impaired response to multiple TLR ligands may significantly contribute to immature neonatal immunity. Conversely, relative preservation of responses to R-848 may present unique opportunities for augmenting innate and acquired immunity in the human newborn.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                28 April 2010
                : 5
                : 4
                [1 ]Institute for Medical Immunology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Gosselies, Belgium
                [2 ]Centre for the Evaluation of Vaccination, Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Institute, University of Antwerp, Wilrijk, Belgium
                Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: DDW FW PVD MG SG. Performed the experiments: MN TZ DDW. Analyzed the data: MN SG. Wrote the paper: EL SG. Recruited the patient cohort: EL.

                Nguyen et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 9
                Research Article
                Immunology/Innate Immunity
                Immunology/Leukocyte Development
                Pediatrics and Child Health/Neonatology



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