Toll-like receptors (TLRs), which recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns, and members of the pro-inflammatory interleukin-1 receptor (IL-1R) family, share homologies in their cytoplasmic domains called Toll/IL-1R/plant R gene homology (TIR) domains. Intracellular signalling mechanisms mediated by TIRs are similar, with MyD88 (refs 5-8) and TRAF6 (refs 9, 10) having critical roles. Signal transduction between MyD88 and TRAF6 is known to involve the serine-threonine kinase IL-1 receptor-associated kinase 1 (IRAK-1) and two homologous proteins, IRAK-2 (ref. 12) and IRAK-M. However, the physiological functions of the IRAK molecules remain unclear, and gene-targeting studies have shown that IRAK-1 is only partially required for IL-1R and TLR signalling. Here we show by gene-targeting that IRAK-4, an IRAK molecule closely related to the Drosophila Pelle protein, is indispensable for the responses of animals and cultured cells to IL-1 and ligands that stimulate various TLRs. IRAK-4-deficient animals are completely resistant to a lethal dose of lipopolysaccharide (LPS). In addition, animals lacking IRAK-4 are severely impaired in their responses to viral and bacterial challenges. Our results indicate that IRAK-4 has an essential role in innate immunity.
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