Cooperativity Among Secretory IgA, the Polymeric Immunoglobulin Receptor, and the Gut Microbiota Promotes Host-Microbial Mutualism

Immunol Lett. 2014 Dec;162(2 Pt A):10-21. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2014.05.008. Epub 2014 May 27.


Secretory IgA (SIgA) antibodies in the intestinal tract form the first line of antigen-specific immune defense, preventing access of pathogens as well as commensal microbes to the body proper. SIgA is transported into external secretions by the polymeric immunoglobulin receptor (pIgR). Evidence is reported here that the gut microbiota regulates production of SIgA and pIgR, which act together to regulate the composition and activity of the microbiota. SIgA in the intestinal mucus layer helps to maintain spatial segregation between the microbiota and the epithelial surface without compromising the metabolic activity of the microbes. Products shed by members of the microbial community promote production of SIgA and pIgR by activating pattern recognition receptors on host epithelial and immune cells. Maternal SIgA in breast milk provides protection to newborn mammals until the developing intestinal immune system begins to produce its own SIgA. Disruption of the SIgA-pIgR-microbial triad can increase the risk of infectious, allergic and inflammatory diseases of the intestine.

Keywords: Breast milk; Gut microbiota; Mucus; Pattern recognition receptors; Polymeric immunoglobulin receptor; Secretory IgA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Receptors, Fc / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition / immunology*
  • Receptors, Polymeric Immunoglobulin / metabolism*
  • Symbiosis


  • IgA, secretory receptor
  • Receptors, Fc
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition
  • Receptors, Polymeric Immunoglobulin