Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists as a driving force behind next-generation vaccine adjuvants and cancer therapeutics

Arshpreet Kaur, Jeremy Baldwin, Deshkanwar Brar, Deepak B. Salunke, Nikolai Petrovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Until recently, the development of new human adjuvants was held back by a poor understanding of their mechanisms of action. The field was revolutionized by the discovery of the toll-like receptors (TLRs), innate immune receptors that directly or indirectly are responsible for detecting pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) and respond to them by activating innate and adaptive immune pathways. Hundreds of ligands targeting various TLRs have since been identified and characterized as vaccine adjuvants. This work has important implications not only for the development of vaccines against infectious diseases but also for immuno-therapies against cancer, allergy, Alzheimer's disease, drug addiction and other diseases. Each TLR has its own specific tissue localization and downstream gene signalling pathways, providing researchers the opportunity to precisely tailor adjuvants with specific immune effects. TLR agonists can be combined with other TLR or alternative adjuvants to create combination adjuvants with synergistic or modulatory effects. This review provides an introduction to the various classes of TLR adjuvants and their respective signalling pathways. It provides an overview of recent advancements in the TLR field in the past 2–3 years and discusses criteria for selecting specific TLR adjuvants based on considerations, such as disease mechanisms and correlates of protection, TLR immune biasing capabilities, route of administration, antigen compatibility, new vaccine technology platforms, and age- and species-specific effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102172
Number of pages16
JournalCurrent Opinion in Chemical Biology
Early online date1 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Adjuvant
  • Immune bias
  • TLR signalling
  • Toll-like receptor
  • Vaccine


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