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Mucosal Immunol. 2010 Sep;3(5):461-74. doi: 10.1038/mi.2010.23. Epub 2010 May 19.

Breast milk immune complexes are potent inducers of oral tolerance in neonates and prevent asthma development.

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INSERM, U924, Valbonne, France.


Allergic asthma is a chronic lung disease resulting from an inappropriate T helper (Th)-2 response to environmental antigens. Early tolerance induction is an attractive approach for primary prevention of asthma. Here, we found that breastfeeding by antigen-sensitized mothers exposed to antigen aerosols during lactation induced a robust and long-lasting antigen-specific protection from asthma. Protection was more profound and persistent than the one induced by antigen-exposed non-sensitized mothers. Milk from antigen-exposed sensitized mothers contained antigen-immunoglobulin (Ig) G immune complexes that were transferred to the newborn through the neonatal Fc receptor resulting in the induction of antigen-specific FoxP3(+) CD25(+) regulatory T cells. The induction of oral tolerance by milk immune complexes did not require the presence of transforming growth factor-beta in milk in contrast to tolerance induced by milk-borne free antigen. Furthermore, neither the presence of IgA in milk nor the expression of the inhibitory FcgammaRIIb in the newborn was required for tolerance induction. This study provides new insights on the mechanisms of tolerance induction in neonates and highlights that IgG immune complexes found in breast milk are potent inducers of oral tolerance. These observations may pave the way for the identification of key factors for primary prevention of immune-mediated diseases such as asthma.

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