Authors: Bardoel BW, Strijp JA.

During infection, our innate immune system is the first line of defense and has evolved to clear invading bacteria immediately. To do so, recognition is the key element. However, how does the innate immune system distinguish self from nonself, and how does it recognize all bacteria (estimated to be far over a million species)? The answer lies in the recognition of evolutionary conserved structures. In this review, we approach this phenomenon from the bacterial perspective. What are the evolutionary conserved structures in bacteria, and what strategies are there in the human innate immune system to sense these structures? We illustrate most examples both at the functional as well as at the molecular level. Furthermore, we highlight how pathogenic bacteria can evade this recognition to survive better in the human host which in turn can result in life-threatening diseases.