Mucosal immunity: the immunology of breast milk

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1987 Sep;80(3 Pt 1):348-58. doi: 10.1016/0091-6749(87)90041-8.


The mammary glands represent one part of the mucosal immune system, a definable, subunit of humoral and cellular immune functions in man that appears to have developed particular qualities well suited to guard our interface with the environment. As our understanding of secretory immunoglobulins and lymphocyte migration patterns continues to develop, the immunologic components found in breast milk appear increasingly likely to play a specific immunologic role in the protection of the nursing infant. The biologic basis for the observed protective effect of breast-feeding is reviewed with an emphasis on the mechanisms involved in the development and maintenance of mucosal immunity in general.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies / analysis*
  • Antibody Formation
  • Breast / immunology
  • Cell Movement
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory / immunology
  • Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Lymphoid Tissue / immunology
  • Milk, Human / cytology
  • Milk, Human / immunology*


  • Antibodies
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory