Validation of a high sensitive immunoenzymatic assay to establish the origin of immunoglobulins in female genital secretions

J Immunoassay Immunochem. 2002;23(2):145-62. doi: 10.1081/IAS-120003658.


Several studies were carried out to characterize the humoral immune response on mucosal genital surfaces. However, the results obtained so far were particularly conflicting due to the absence of validation methods. The aim of this study was to develop and validate a quantitative ELISA method, which is sensitive and reproducible, to measure immunoglobulin and secretory immunoglobulin concentrations in various biological fluids. This quantitative, sensitive (detection limit = 1 microg/L) and reproducible (coefficient of variation < 15%) method could be of interest to study the effects of viral infections on mucosal non-specific immune response in genital tract. To explore the humoral response, serum, saliva, vaginal secretions, and cervicovaginal secretions from 18 women, 20-45 years old, were evaluated for total-IgA, secretory IgA, IgM, and IgG. Albumin level was also evaluated by immuno-nephelometry. The secretion rates of immunoglobulins were measured by calculating their relative coefficients of excretion by reference to albumin. Despite large individual variations, median immunoglobulin levels were higher in the endocervical secretions than in the cervicovaginal secretions. When we compared the rates of immunoglobulins in genital fluids, IgG prevalence was higher (80%) in cervicovaginal and endocervical secretions than IgA prevalence (12%). In contrast, digestive mucosal secretions, such as saliva, contained mostly IgA (80%). In cervicovaginal and endocervical secretions, IgG and IgM originated mainly from serum, whereas a local synthesis provided total-IgA and secretory IgA. These results allowed us to raise a possible hypothesis for the origin of immunoglobulins in the genital tract. They illustrated the peculiar feature of the female reproductive tract and the difficulty for this tissue to contribute in the mucosal associated lymphoid tissue. The low secretory-IgA and total-IgA levels could explain the particular sensitivity of the vagina and the cervix to infections.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cervix Mucus / immunology
  • Cervix Mucus / metabolism
  • Cervix Uteri / immunology
  • Cervix Uteri / metabolism
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Exudates and Transudates / immunology
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / immunology*
  • Genitalia, Female / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal / immunology
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Immunoglobulin Isotypes / biosynthesis
  • Immunoglobulin Isotypes / blood
  • Immunoglobulins / analysis
  • Immunoglobulins / blood
  • Immunoglobulins / immunology*
  • Radioimmunoassay / standards*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Saliva / immunology*
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism
  • Vagina / immunology
  • Vagina / metabolism


  • Immunoglobulin Isotypes
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Serum Albumin