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Immunity. 2007 Jun;26(6):812-26.

Intestinal bacteria trigger T cell-independent immunoglobulin A(2) class switching by inducing epithelial-cell secretion of the cytokine APRIL.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, 1300 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA.


Bacteria colonize the intestine shortly after birth and thereafter exert several beneficial functions, including induction of protective immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies. The distal intestine contains IgA(2), which is more resistant to bacterial proteases than is IgA(1). The mechanism by which B cells switch from IgM to IgA(2) remains unknown. We found that human intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) triggered IgA(2) class switching in B cells, including IgA(1)-expressing B cells arriving from mucosal follicles, through a CD4(+) T cell-independent pathway involving a proliferation-inducing ligand (APRIL). IECs released APRIL after sensing bacteria through Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and further increased APRIL production by activating dendritic cells via thymic stromal lymphopoietin. Our data indicate that bacteria elicit IgA(2) class switching by linking lamina propria B cells with IECs through a TLR-inducible signaling program requiring APRIL. Thus, mucosal vaccines should activate IECs to induce more effective IgA(2) responses.

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