Toll-like receptor-4 (TLR4) can be activated by non-bacterial agonists, including saturated fatty acids. However, downstream signaling pathways activated by non-bacterial agonists are not known. Thus, we determined the downstream signaling pathways derived from saturated fatty acid-induced TLR4 activation. Saturated fatty acid (lauric acid)-induced NFκB activation was inhibited by a dominant-negative mutant of TLR4, MyD88, IRAK-1, TRAF6, or IκBα in macrophages (RAW264.7) and 293T cells transfected with TLR4 and MD2. Lauric acid induced the transient phosphorylation of AKT. LY294002, dominant-negative (DN) phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), or AKT(DN) inhibited NFκB activation, p65 transactivation, and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression induced by lauric acid or constitutively active (CA) TLR4. AKT(DN) blocked MyD88-induced NFκB activation, suggesting that AKT is a MyD88-dependent downstream signaling component of TLR4. AKT(CA) was sufficient to induce NFκB activation and COX-2 expression. These results demonstrate that NFκB activation and COX-2 expression induced by lauric acid are at least partly mediated through the TLR4/PI3K/AKT signaling pathway. In contrast, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) inhibited the phosphorylation of AKT induced by lipopolysaccharide or lauric acid. DHA also suppressed NFκB activation induced by TLR4(CA), but not MyD88(CA) of AKT(CA), suggesting that the molecular targets of DHA are signaling components upstream of MyD88 and AKT. Together, these results suggest that saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids reciprocally modulate the activation of TLR4 and its downstream signaling pathways involving MyD88/IRAK/TRAF6 and PI3K/AKT and further suggest the possibility that TLR4-mediated target gene expression and cellular responses are also differentially modulated by saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.
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