Methods in Molecular Biology
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative and autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system (CNS). The precise etiology of MS is still undeciphered, and signs and symptoms of the disease are varied and complex, ranging from axonal degeneration, synaptic, and neuronal loss to demyelination. Inflammation plays a critical role in determining the onset and the progression of MS, but there is still a lot of information missing before scientists come to understand what are the factors that contribute to the establishment of the neuroinflammation. Thus, various murine models, each representative of a specific hallmark of MS, are used to study the processes underlying the pathogenetic mechanisms of the disease in an attempt to find effective drugs for its treatment. Among the many causes of MS, viral infections appear to be one of the most prominent ones. In this scenario, the comprehension of the role of receptors activated upon the recognition of viral, and in general microbial, components in determining onset and progression of the neuroinflammation is of paramount importance. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are evolutionarily conserved receptors that recognize several pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), common structures of the pathogens, or the damage caused by the pathogens within the host. TLRs are thus directly involved in the regulation of inflammatory reactions and in the activation of the innate and, subsequently, the adaptive immune responses crucial for the elimination of infectious pathogens. The role of TLR activation in the development of MS is widely studied in various murine models of MS, as well as in MS patients. In this chapter, we will summarize the current knowledge about the contribution of TLRs to the development or progression of MS, and we will illustrate different methods commonly used for the investigation of the role of different TLRs in various murine models of the disease.