Man the barrier! Strategic defences in the intestinal mucosa

Nat Rev Immunol. 2001 Oct;1(1):59-67. doi: 10.1038/35095573.


Immunologists typically study the immune responses induced in the spleen or peripheral lymph nodes after parenteral immunization with antigen and poorly defined experimental adjuvants. However, most antigens enter the body through mucosal surfaces. It is now clear that the microenvironment in these mucosal barriers has a marked influence on the immune response that ultimately ensues. Nowhere is the microenvironment more influential than in the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). The GALT must constantly distinguish harmless antigens that are present in food or on commensal bacteria from pathogenic assault by microbes. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that the GALT contains more lymphocytes than all of the secondary lymphoid organs combined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Immunity, Mucosal
  • Immunoglobulins / metabolism
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Lymphoid Tissue / immunology
  • Models, Immunological
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Immunoglobulins