Developmental and comparative immunology

Toll-like receptor signaling is functional in immune cells of the endangered Tasmanian devil.

PMID 26182986


Devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) is a fatally transmissible cancer that threatens the Tasmanian devil population. As Tasmanian devils do not produce an immune response against DFTD cells, an effective vaccine will require a strong adjuvant. Activation of innate immune system cells through toll-like receptors (TLRs) could provide this stimulation. It is unknown whether marsupials, including Tasmanian devils, express functional TLRs. We isolated RNA from peripheral blood mononuclear cells and, with PCR, detected transcripts for TLRs 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 13. Stimulation of the mononuclear cells with agonists to these TLRs increased the expression of downstream TLR signaling products (IL1α, IL6, IL12A and IFNβ). Our data provide the first evidence that TLR signaling is functional in the mononuclear cells of the Tasmanian devil. Future DFTD vaccination trials will incorporate TLR agonists to enhance the immune response against DFTD.