Mucosal surfaces in the gastrointestinal tract are continually exposed to native, commensal antigens and susceptible to foreign, infectious antigens. Immunoglobulin A (IgA) provides dual humoral responses that create a symbiotic environment for the resident gut microbiota and prevent the invasion of enteric pathogens. This review features recent immunological and microbial studies that elucidate the underlying IgA and microbiota-dependent mechanisms for mutualism at physiological conditions. IgA derailment and concurrent microbiota instability in pathological diseases are also discussed in detail. Highlights of this review underscore that the source of IgA and its structural form can dictate microbiota reactivity to sustain a diverse niche where both host and bacteria benefit. Other important studies emphasize IgA insufficiency can result in the bloom of opportunistic pathogens that encroach the intestinal epithelia and disseminate into circulation. The continual growth of knowledge in these subjects can lead to the development of therapeutics targeting IgA and/or the microbiota to treat life threatening diseases.
Keywords: B cells; IgA deficiency; gut homeostasis; mucosal immunology; polymeric immunoglobulin receptor (pIgR); secretory IgA.