Genetic association studies of leprosy cohorts across the world have identified numerous polymorphisms which alter susceptibility and outcome to infection with Mycobacterium leprae. As expected, many of the polymorphisms reside within genes that encode components of the innate and adaptive immune system. Despite the preponderance of these studies, our understanding of the mechanisms that underlie these genetic associations remains sparse. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) have emerged as an essential family of innate immune pattern recognition receptors which play a pivotal role in host defense against microbes, including pathogenic strains of mycobacteria. This paper will highlight studies which have uncovered the association of specific TLR gene polymorphisms with leprosy or tuberculosis: two important diseases resulting from mycobacterial infection. This analysis will focus on the potential influence these polymorphic variants have on TLR expression and function and how altered TLR recognition or signaling may contribute to successful antimycobacterial immunity.
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