The Role of the Polymeric Immunoglobulin Receptor and Secretory Immunoglobulins during Mucosal Infection and Immunity

Viruses. 2018 May 3;10(5):237. doi: 10.3390/v10050237.


The gastrointestinal tract houses millions of microbes, and thus has evolved several host defense mechanisms to keep them at bay, and prevent their entry into the host. One such mucosal surface defense is the secretion of secretory immunoglobulins (SIg). Secretion of SIg depends on the polymeric immunoglobulin receptor (pIgR), which transports polymeric Ig (IgA or IgM) from the basolateral surface of the epithelium to the apical side. Upon reaching the luminal side, a portion of pIgR, called secretory component (SC) is cleaved off to release Ig, forming SIg. Through antigen-specific and non-specific binding, SIg can modulate microbial communities and pathogenic microbes via several mechanisms: agglutination and exclusion from the epithelial surface, neutralization, or via host immunity and complement activation. Given the crucial role of SIg as a microbial scavenger, some pathogens also evolved ways to modulate and utilize pIgR and SIg to facilitate infection. This review will cover the regulation of the pIgR/SIg cycle, mechanisms of SIg-mediated mucosal protection as well as pathogen utilization of SIg.

Keywords: infection; mucosa; polymeric immunoglobulin receptor; secretory immunoglobulin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal*
  • Immunoglobulin A / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulins / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Polymeric Immunoglobulin / immunology*


  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Receptors, Polymeric Immunoglobulin