Human secretory immunoglobulin A may contribute to biofilm formation in the gut

Immunology. 2003 Aug;109(4):580-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2567.2003.01700.x.


It is critical, both for the host and for the long-term benefit of the bacteria that colonize the gut, that bacterial overgrowth with subsequent bacterial translocation, which may lead to sepsis and death of the host, be avoided. Secretory IgA (sIgA) is known to be a key factor in this process, agglutinating bacteria and preventing their translocation in a process termed 'immune exclusion'. To determine whether human sIgA might facilitate the growth of normal enteric bacteria under some conditions, the growth of human enteric bacteria on cultured, fixed human epithelial cells was evaluated in the presence of sIgA or various other proteins. Human sIgA was found to facilitate biofilm formation by normal human gut flora and by Escherichia coli on cultured human epithelial cell surfaces under conditions in which non-adherent bacteria were repeatedly washed away. In addition, the presence of sIgA resulted in a 64% increase in adherence of E. coli to live cultured epithelial cells over a 45-min period. Mucin, another defence factor thought to play a key role in immune exclusion, was found to facilitate biofilm formation by E. coli. Our findings suggest that sIgA may contribute to biofilm formation in the gut.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / immunology
  • Bacterial Adhesion / immunology
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Digestive System / immunology
  • Digestive System / microbiology*
  • Epithelium / immunology
  • Epithelium / microbiology
  • Escherichia coli / immunology
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory / immunology*
  • Mucins / immunology


  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory
  • Mucins