The immune geography of IgA induction and function

Mucosal Immunol. 2008 Jan;1(1):11-22. doi: 10.1038/mi.2007.6.


The production of immunoglobulin A (IgA) in mammals exceeds all other isotypes, and it is mostly exported across mucous membranes. The discovery of IgA and the realization that it dominates humoral mucosal immunity, in contrast to the IgG dominance of the systemic immune system, was early evidence for the distinct nature of mucosal immunology. It is now clear that IgA can function in high-affinity modes for neutralization of toxins and pathogenic microbes, and as a low-affinity system to contain the dense commensal microbiota within the intestinal lumen. The basic map of induction of IgA B cells in the Peyer's patches, which then circulate through the lymph and bloodstream to seed the mucosa with precursors of plasma cells that produce dimeric IgA for export through the intestinal epithelium, has been known for more than 30 years. In this review, we discuss the mechanisms underlying selective IgA induction of mucosal B cells for IgA production and the immune geography of their homing characteristics. We also review the functionality of secretory IgA directed against both commensal organisms and pathogens.

Publication types

  • Comment
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulin A / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Peyer's Patches / immunology*
  • Plasma Cells / immunology*
  • Precursor Cells, B-Lymphoid / immunology*


  • Immunoglobulin A