TLR Agonists as Mediators of Trained Immunity: Mechanistic Insight and Immunotherapeutic Potential to Combat Infection.


Despite advances in critical care medicine, infection remains a significant problem that continues to be complicated with the challenge of antibiotic resistance. Immunocompromised patients are highly susceptible to development of severe infection which often progresses to the life-threatening condition of sepsis. Thus, immunotherapies aimed at boosting host immune defenses are highly attractive strategies to ward off infection and protect patients. Recently there has been mounting evidence that activation of the innate immune system can confer long-term functional reprogramming whereby innate leukocytes mount more robust responses upon secondary exposure to a pathogen for more efficient clearance and host protection, termed trained immunity. Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists are a class of agents which have been shown to trigger the phenomenon of trained immunity through metabolic reprogramming and epigenetic modifications which drive profound augmentation of antimicrobial functions. Immunomodulatory TLR agonists are also highly beneficial as vaccine adjuvants. This review provides an overview on TLR signaling and our current understanding of TLR agonists which show promise as immunotherapeutic agents for combating infection. A brief discussion on our current understanding of underlying mechanisms is also provided. Although an evolving field, TLR agonists hold strong therapeutic potential as immunomodulators and merit further investigation for clinical translation.