Shielding the double‐edged sword: negative regulation of the innate immune system Academic Article uri icon


  • The innate immune system is evolutionarily conserved among all multicellular organisms and is the first line of defense against microorganisms. It enables the host not only to combat pathogenic organisms but also to cohabit with nonpathogenic microorganisms by balancing the host-microorganism interaction. The innate immune response is activated rapidly (within hours) compared with adaptive immunity. Activation of the innate immune system allows the activation of the adaptive immune response by production of proinflammatory cytokines and by providing stimulatory signals via major histocompatibility complex molecules and costimulatory molecules such as CD40, CD80, or CD86; together, these lead to the full activation of both immune systems to fight against pathogenic microorganisms. Activation of the innate immune system, however, can be a double-edged sword for the host. Proinflammatory cytokines mediate a positive feedback loop on the innate immune system, and overproduction of cytokines, if unchecked, is hazardous to the host and may cause severe outcomes such as hyperthermia, organ failure, and even death in extreme cases. Moreover, if the overproduction of proinflammatory cytokines persists, it may cause chronic inflammatory diseases. During evolution, the innate immune system has acquired complicated regulatory systems to control itself so that this "sword" will not kill the host. Various mechanisms including inhibition of Toll-like receptor signaling by interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase-M have evolved for this purpose and are important not only to fight against pathogenic microorganisms efficiently but also are critical for the peaceful coexistence with commensal bacterial flora.

author list (cited authors)

  • Kobayashi, K. S., & Flavell, R. A.

citation count

  • 68

publication date

  • November 2003