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J Virol. 2010 Aug;84(16):8209-18. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00656-10. Epub 2010 Jun 2.

Limited contribution of mucosal IgA to Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-specific neutralizing antibody response and virus envelope evolution in breast milk of SIV-infected, lactating rhesus monkeys.

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  • 1Division of Viral Pathogenesis, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Breast milk transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) remains an important mode of infant HIV acquisition. Interestingly, the majority of infants remain uninfected during prolonged virus exposure via breastfeeding, raising the possibility that immune components in milk prevent mucosal virus transmission. HIV-specific antibody responses are detectable in the milk of HIV-infected women and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected monkeys; however, the role of these humoral responses in virus neutralization and local virus quasispecies evolution has not been characterized. In this study, four lactating rhesus monkeys were inoculated with SIVmac251 and monitored for SIV envelope-specific humoral responses and virus evolution in milk and plasma throughout infection. While the kinetics and breadth of the SIV-specific IgG and IgA responses in milk were similar to those in plasma, the magnitude of the milk responses was considerably lower than that of the plasma responses. Furthermore, a neutralizing antibody response against the inoculation virus was not detected in milk samples at 1 year after infection, despite a measurable autologous neutralizing antibody response in plasma samples obtained from three of four monkeys. Interestingly, while IgA is the predominant immunoglobulin in milk, the milk SIV envelope-specific IgA response was lower in magnitude and demonstrated more limited neutralizing capacity against a T-cell line-adapted SIV compared to those of the milk IgG response. Finally, amino acid mutations in the envelope gene product of SIV variants in milk and plasma samples occurred in similar numbers and at similar positions, indicating that the humoral immune pressure in milk does not drive distinct virus evolution in the breast milk compartment.

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