Distinct Features and Functions of Systemic and Mucosal Humoral Immunity Among SARS-CoV-2 Convalescent Individuals

Front Immunol. 2021 Jan 28:11:618685. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.618685. eCollection 2020.


Understanding humoral immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection will play a critical role in the development of vaccines and antibody-based interventions. We report systemic and mucosal antibody responses in convalescent individuals who experienced varying severity of disease. Whereas assessment of neutralization and antibody-mediated effector functions revealed polyfunctional antibody responses in serum, only robust neutralization and phagocytosis were apparent in nasal wash samples. Serum neutralization and effector functions correlated with systemic SARS-CoV-2-specific IgG response magnitude, while mucosal neutralization was associated with nasal SARS-CoV-2-specific IgA. Antibody depletion experiments support the mechanistic relevance of these correlations. Associations between nasal IgA responses, virus neutralization at the mucosa, and less severe disease suggest the importance of assessing mucosal immunity in larger natural infection cohorts. Further characterization of antibody responses at the portal of entry may define their ability to contribute to protection from infection or reduced risk of hospitalization, informing public health assessment strategies and vaccine development efforts.

Keywords: COVID-19; IgA; IgG; SARS-CoV-2; antibody; mucosal immunity; neutralization; systems serology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • Antibody-Dependent Cell Cytotoxicity / immunology
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • Convalescence
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Humoral / immunology*
  • Immunity, Mucosal / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulin A / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasal Mucosa / immunology*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin G