Intestinal immune responses in humans. Oral cholera vaccination induces strong intestinal antibody responses and interferon-gamma production and evokes local immunological memory

J Clin Invest. 1991 Jul;88(1):143-8. doi: 10.1172/JCI115270.


We have examined secretory antibody and cell-mediated immune responses to oral cholera vaccine in the human gastrointestinal mucosa. Freshly isolated peripheral blood lymphocytes and intestinal lymphocytes obtained by enzymatic dispersion of duodenal biopsies were assayed for numbers of total and vaccine specific immunoglobulin-secreting cells by enzyme-linked immunospot assay (ELISPOT) techniques; the frequency of cells secreting interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) was also examined by a new modification of the ELISPOT technique. After booster immunizations with oral cholera vaccine, large numbers of cholera toxin-specific antibody-secreting cells (ASC) appeared in the small intestine. The responses were dominated by IgA ASC. A single immunization, performed 5 mo after the initial vaccinations, gave rise to an ASC response similar to that seen after the first booster immunization, with respect to both magnitude and isotype distribution. Each of the immunizations also evoked an ASC response in blood which was of lower magnitude than that seen in the small intestine, and comprised similar proportions of IgA and IgG ASC. A booster immunization also resulted in increased frequencies of IFN-gamma-secreting cells, but this increase was confined to the duodenal mucosa. This study establishes the feasibility of studying, at the single-cell level, intestinal immune reactivity in humans. Furthermore, it indicates that the small intestinal mucosa is an enriched source of IFN-gamma. It also demonstrates marked differences between intestinal and peripheral blood immune responses after enteric immunization, and confirms the notion that the mucosal immune system in humans displays immunological memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / analysis
  • Antibody-Producing Cells / immunology*
  • Cholera Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Cholera Vaccines / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunization
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Vaccination / methods


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Cholera Vaccines
  • Interferon-gamma