Innate immune sensing 2.0 – from linear activation pathways to fine tuned and regulated innate immune networks


Tilo Biedermann, MD, Professor of Dermatology, Department of Dermatology, Eberhard Karls University, Liebermeisterstrasse 25, 72076 Tübingen, Germany, Tel.: +49-7071-29-80836, Fax: +49-7071-29-7463-4117, e-mail:


Abstract:  The innate immune system is based on pathogen recognition receptors that bind conserved microbial molecular structures, so called pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). The characterization of the innate immune system was long based on a linear step-wise concept of recognition, activation pathways and effector defense mechanisms. Only more recently it was recognized that the innate immune system needs regulatory elements, sideways and crosstalks that allows it to fine tune and adapt its response. Thus, it is an emerging field within innate immunity research to try to understand how the immune outcome of innate immune sensing is regulated and why immune responses can be substantially different, even though the same PAMPs may have been ‘sensed’ at the surface organs such as the skin. Only the expansion of the innate immune system from ‘pure’ linear activation pathways to fine tuned and regulated innate immune networks allows us to integrate the generation of gradually accentuated and qualitatively different effector and tolerogenic immune responses. This article provides a review of the basic concepts and players of the innate immune system and will present some of the newer data defining the innate immune networks effectively regulating the immune homoeostasis and immune effector mechanisms with special focus on the skin as one of the organs involved in regulating the immune interface between the environment and the organism.