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Mucosal Immunol. 2009 Jul;2(4):351-61. doi: 10.1038/mi.2009.15. Epub 2009 May 6.

From the fetal liver to spleen and gut: the highway to natural antibody.

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  • 1Research Center, Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù, IRCCS, Roma, Italy.


The film of sIgA lining the intestinal epithelium plays a role in the regulation of the commensal microflora and prevention of pathogen invasion. We show that, in the absence of intentional immunization, all sIgA in the gut is produced by B-1a B cells. We also show that B-1a B cells and sIgA derive from lineage-negative precursors found in the fetal liver and located in the spleen after birth. The splenic precursors do not generate B cells of the adaptive immune system in bone marrow, spleen, and lymph nodes, but efficiently replenish the cells producing the natural antibodies. Therefore, B-1a B cells with their splenic progenitors and their progeny of plasma cells fill the same function of the primordial immune system of lower vertebrates. The natural antibodies in the serum and on the intestinal epithelium may be an evolutionary ancient tool for the immediate protection against commensal and pathogenic bacteria.

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