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Crit Rev Immunol. 1999;19(5-6):481-508.

Regulation of the formation and external transport of secretory immunoglobulins.

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  • 1Laboratory for Immunohistochemistry and Immunopathology, Institute of Pathology, University of Oslo, The National Hospital, Rikshospitalet, Norway.


Secretory IgA (SIgA) is the best defined effector component of the mucosal immune system. Generation of SIgA and secretory IgM (SIgM) in exocrine glands and mucous membranes depends on a fascinating cooperation between local plasma cells that produce polymeric IgA (pIgA, mainly dimers and some larger polymers) and pentameric IgM, and secretory epithelial cells that express the polymeric Ig receptor (pIgR)--also known as transmembrane secretory component. After release from the local plasma cells and diffusion through the stroma, pIgA and pentameric IgM become readily bound to pIgR, and are then actively transported across secretory epithelial cells for extrusion into external secretions after cleavage of pIgR. Much knowledge has recently been obtained at the molecular level about the regulation of pIgR-mediated transport of antibodies. This mechanism is of considerable biological interest because SIgA and SIgM form the first line of specific immunological defense against infectious agents and other harmful substances that may enter the body through the mucosae.

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