The immune privilege of the oral mucosa

Trends Mol Med. 2008 May;14(5):191-8. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2008.03.001. Epub 2008 Apr 7.


Despite high bacterial colonization and frequent allergen contact, acute inflammatory and allergic reactions are rarely seen in the oral mucosa. Therefore we assert that immune tolerance predominates at this site and antigen presenting cells, such as dendritic cells and different T cell subtypes, serve as key players in oral mucosal tolerance induction. In this article we describe the mechanisms that lead to tolerance induced in the oral mucosa and how they differ from tolerance induced in the lower gastrointestinal tract. Furthermore we discuss ways in which novel nonparenteral approaches for immune intervention, such as allergen-specific immunotherapy applied by way of the sublingual route, might be improved to target the tolerogenic properties of the sophisticated oral mucosal immune network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Inflammation
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Models, Biological
  • Mouth Mucosa / immunology*
  • Mouth Mucosa / physiology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology