IgA-deficient humans exhibit gut microbiota dysbiosis despite secretion of compensatory IgM

Sci Rep. 2019 Sep 19;9(1):13574. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-49923-2.


Immunoglobulin A is the dominant antibody isotype found in mucosal secretions and enforces host-microbiota symbiosis in mice, yet selective IgA-deficiency (sIgAd) in humans is often described as asymptomatic. Here, we determined the effects of IgA deficiency on human gut microbiota composition and evaluated the possibility that mucosal secretion of IgM can compensate for a lack of secretory IgA. We used 16S rRNA gene sequencing and bacterial cell sorting to evaluate gut microbiota composition and taxa-specific antibody coating of the gut microbiota in 15 sIgAd subjects and matched controls. Despite the secretion of compensatory IgM into the gut lumen, sIgAd subjects displayed an altered gut microbiota composition as compared to healthy controls. These alterations were characterized by a trend towards decreased overall microbial diversity as well as significant shifts in the relative abundances of specific microbial taxa. While secretory IgA in healthy controls targeted a defined subset of the microbiota via high-level coating, compensatory IgM in sIgAd subjects showed less specificity than IgA and bound a broader subset of the microbiota. We conclude that IgA plays a critical and non-redundant role in controlling gut microbiota composition in humans and that secretory IgA has evolved to maintain a diverse and stable gut microbial community.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Case-Control Studies
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Dysbiosis / immunology*
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory / metabolism*
  • Immunoglobulin M / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S