Toll-like receptors (TLRs), named after the Toll gene identified in fruit flies, are a family of evolutionary conserved proteins that play a key role in the innate immune system. TLRs are found inside or on the surface of immune cells of virtually all-living animals and recognize integral parts of microbes. Thereby, they are excellent candidate receptors for controlled stimulation of the innate immune system of, for example, fish in aquaculture.
β-glucans are microbial compounds routinely added to fish feed for their health-promoting effects. They regulate innate immunity by stimulating fish cells to produce more oxygen and nitrogen radicals but are not recognized by TLRs. Instead, TLRs of cyprinid fish (zebrafish, carp) are stimulated by viral and/or parasitic infection. Although immunostimulation by β-glucans occurs via yet undefined receptors certainly, addition of integral but harmless parts of microbes to fish feed may help control fish diseases in aquaculture.