Current concepts in mucosal immunity. IV. How epithelial transport of IgA antibodies relates to host defense

Am J Physiol. 1998 Apr;274(4):G614-7. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.1998.274.4.g614.


The humoral arm of the mucosal immune system is principally composed of locally synthesized polymeric IgA, whose Fc portion is adapted for binding to the polymeric immunoglobulin receptor that is expressed on the basolateral surface of mucosal epithelial cells, including enterocytes. This receptor mediates the endocytosis and transcytosis of polymeric IgA, which allows IgA to function in host defense at three anatomic levels in relation to mucosal epithelium: IgA antibodies in the lamina propria can bind antigens and excrete them through the epithelium into the lumen; antiviral IgA antibodies in transit through epithelial cells can inhibit virus production by an intracellular action; and IgA antibodies secreted into the lumen can prevent antigens and microbes from adhering to and penetrating the epithelium. The ways in which IgA antibodies function in mucous membranes provide challenging investigative opportunities for cell physiologists and cell biologists.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Epithelium / immunology
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity / physiology*
  • Immunoglobulin A / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulin A / physiology
  • Immunoglobulin Fc Fragments / physiology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Mucous Membrane / physiology*
  • Virus Replication / physiology


  • Antibodies
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin Fc Fragments