Gut Microbiota Perturbation in IgA Deficiency Is Influenced by IgA-Autoantibody Status

Gastroenterology. 2021 Jun;160(7):2423-2434.e5. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2021.02.053. Epub 2021 Mar 1.


Background & aims: IgA exerts its primary function at mucosal surfaces, where it binds microbial antigens to regulate bacterial growth and epithelial attachment. One third of individuals with IgA deficiency (IgAD) suffers from recurrent mucosal infections, possibly related to an altered microbiota. We aimed to delineate the impact of IgAD and the IgA-autoantibody status on the composition and functional capacity of the gut microbiota.

Methods: We performed a paired, lifestyle-balanced analysis of the effect of IgA on the gut microbiota composition and functionality based on fecal samples from individuals with IgAD and IgA-sufficient household members (n = 100), involving quantitative shotgun metagenomics, species-centric functional annotation of gut bacteria, and strain-level analyses. We supplemented the data set with 32 individuals with IgAD and examined the influence of IgA-autoantibody status on the composition and functionality of the gut microbiota.

Results: The gut microbiota of individuals with IgAD exhibited decreased richness and diversity and was enriched for bacterial species encoding pathogen-related functions including multidrug and antimicrobial peptide resistance, virulence factors, and type III and VI secretion systems. These functional changes were largely attributed to Escherichia coli but were independent of E coli strain variations and most prominent in individuals with IgAD with IgA-specific autoreactive antibodies.

Conclusions: The microbiota of individuals with IgAD is enriched for species holding increased proinflammatory potential, thereby potentially decreasing the resistance to gut barrier-perturbing events. This phenotype is especially pronounced in individuals with IgAD with IgA-specific autoreactive antibodies, thus warranting a screening for IgA-specific autoreactive antibodies in IgAD to identify patients with IgAD with increased risk for gastrointestinal implications.

Keywords: Autoimmunity; Functional Profiling of the Gut Microbiota; Immunoglobulin A; Quantitative Metagenomics; Strain-Level Analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autoantibodies / metabolism*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology*
  • Humans
  • IgA Deficiency / immunology*
  • IgA Deficiency / microbiology*
  • Immunoglobulin A / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Autoantibodies
  • Immunoglobulin A