Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are powerful molecular regulators by which the immune system may “sense” the environment and protect the host from pathogens or endogenous threats. In mammalian cells, several TLRs were identified with a tissue and cell type-specific distribution. Understanding the functions of specific TLRs is crucial for the development and discovery of compounds useful to maintaining or re-establishing homeostasis in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Due to their relevance in regulating the inflammatory response in the GIT, we will focus here on TLR2, TLR4, and TLR5. In particular, we describe (a) the molecular pathways activated by the stimulation of these receptors with their known bacterial ligands; (b) the non-bacterial ligands known to interact directly with TLR2 and TLR4 and their soluble forms. The scope of this minireview is to highlight the importance of bacterial and non-bacterial compounds in affecting the gut immune functions via the activation of the TLRs.
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