Receptor-mediated immunoglobulin G transport across mucosal barriers in adult life: functional expression of FcRn in the mammalian lung

J Exp Med. 2002 Aug 5;196(3):303-10. doi: 10.1084/jem.20020400.


Mucosal secretions of the human gastrointestinal, respiratory, and genital tracts contain the immunoglobulins (Ig)G and secretory IgA (sIgA) that function together in host defense. Exactly how IgG crosses epithelial barriers to function in mucosal immunity remains unknown. Here, we test the idea that the MHC class I-related Fc-receptor, FcRn, transports IgG across the mucosal surface of the human and mouse lung from lumen to serosa. We find that bronchial epithelial cells of the human, nonhuman primate, and mouse, express FcRn in adult-life, and demonstrate FcRn-dependent absorption of a bioactive Fc-fusion protein across the respiratory epithelium of the mouse in vivo. Thus, IgG, like dimeric IgA, can cross epithelial barriers by receptor-mediated transcytosis in adult animals. These data show that mucosal surfaces that express FcRn reabsorb IgG and explain a mechanism by which IgG may act in immune surveillance to retrieve lumenal antigens for processing in the lamina propria or systemically.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetinae
  • Erythropoietin / metabolism
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Immunoglobulin G / metabolism*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Lung / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mucous Membrane / immunology
  • Receptors, Fc / analysis*
  • Receptors, Fc / physiology


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Receptors, Fc
  • Erythropoietin
  • Fc receptor, neonatal