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Clin Diagn Lab Immunol. 1995 Mar;2(2):125-31.

Anti-alpha-galactosyl immunoglobulin A (IgA), IgG, and IgM in human secretions.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of California San Francisco 94143.


Anti-alpha-galactosyl (anti-Gal) is a natural human serum antibody that binds to the carbohydrate Gal alpha 1,3Gal beta 1,4GlcNAc-R (alpha-galactosyl epitope) and is synthesized by 1% of circulating B lymphocytes in response to immune stimulation by enteric bacteria. We were able to purify secretory anti-Gal from human colostrum and bile by affinity chromatography on silica-linked Gal alpha 1,3Gal beta 1,4GlcNAc. We found similar secretory anti-Gal antibodies in human milk, saliva, and vaginal washings. Secretory anti-Gal from milk and saliva was exclusively immunoglobulin A (IgA); that from colostrum and bile also contained IgG and IgM isotypes. Serum was also found to contain anti-Gal IgM and IgA in addition to the previously reported IgG. Anti-Gal IgA purified from colostrum and bile had both IgA1 and IgA2. Secretory anti-Gal from saliva, milk, colostrum, and bile agglutinated rabbit erythrocytes (RRBC) and bound to bovine thyroglobulin, both of which have abundant alpha-galactosyl epitopes. The RRBC-hemagglutinating capacity of human saliva, milk, bile, and serum was specifically adsorbed by immobilized Gal alpha 1,3Gal beta 1,4GlcNAc but not by Gal alpha 1,4Gal beta 1,4GlcNAc, Gal beta 1,3GalNAc, Gal beta 1,4GlcNAc, Gal beta 1,4GlcNAc alpha 1,2Man, or Fuc alpha 1,2Gal beta 1,4GlcNAc. No RRBC-hemagglutinating activity could be detected in rat milk, rat bile, cow milk, or rabbit bile, suggesting a restricted species distribution for secretory anti-Gal similar to that found for serum anti-Gal. Colostral anti-GaI IgA bound strongly to a sample of gram-negative bacteria isolated from the throats and stools of well children as well as to an Escherichia coli K-1 blood isolate. Colostral anti-GaI IgA inhibited the binding of a Neisseria meningitidis strain to human buccal epithelial cells, suggesting that this antibody may play a protective role at the mucosal surface.

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