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Mediators of Inflammation
Volume 2011, Article ID 186093, 10 pages
Review Article

Location, Location, Location: Is Membrane Partitioning Everything When It Comes to Innate Immune Activation?

1Department of Child Health, School of Medicine, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF14 4XN, UK
2Infection and Immunity Group, School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QG, UK
3Department of Pneumology, Bern University Hospital (Inselspital), University of Bern, 3010 Bern, Switzerland
4Department of Internal Medicine V-Pneumology, Allergology and Respiratory Critical Care Medicine, University Hospital of Saarland, 66424 Homburg, Germany

Received 22 November 2010; Accepted 27 March 2011

Academic Editor: Giamila Fantuzzi

Copyright © 2011 Martha Triantafilou et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In the last twenty years, the general view of the plasma membrane has changed from a homogeneous arrangement of lipids to a mosaic of microdomains. It is currently thought that islands of highly ordered saturated lipids and cholesterol, which are laterally mobile, exist in the plane of the plasma membrane. Lipid rafts are thought to provide a means to explain the spatial segregation of certain signalling pathways emanating from the cell surface. They seem to provide the necessary microenvironment in order for certain specialised signalling events to take place, such as the innate immune recognition. The innate immune system seems to employ germ-lined encoded receptors, called pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), in order to detect pathogens. One family of such receptors are the Toll-like receptors (TLRs), which are the central “sensing” apparatus of the innate immune system. In recent years, it has become apparent that TLRs are recruited into membrane microdomains in response to ligands. These nanoscale assemblies of sphingolipid, cholesterol, and TLRs stabilize and coalesce, forming signalling platforms, which transduce signals that lead to innate immune activation. In the current paper, we will investigate all past and current literature concerning recruitment of extracellular and intracellular TLRs into lipid rafts and how this membrane organization modulates innate immune responses.