Determinants of the localization, magnitude, and duration of a specific mucosal IgA plasma cell response in enterically immunized rats

N. F. Pierce, W. C. Cray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


The origin and fate of specific IgA plasma cells in intestinal lamina propria were studied in rats immunized enterically with cholera toxin (CT). Our major goal was to define how an anti-CT response is focused and sustained at the site of antigen challenge. To distinguish antigen-dependent from antigen-independent mechanisms, CT exposure was restricted to defined portions of intestine and, in some studies, the distribution of antitoxin-containing plasma cells (ACC) was examined in nonimmune adoptive recipients of post-challenge thoracic duct lymphocytes. After enteric priming and challenge, ACC appeared throughout the gut, but were most numerous at the challenged site. About 25% of ACC appearing at the site of jejunal challenge were due to antigen-driven proliferation of memory cells within the lamina propria; the remainder arose elsewhere, apparently in mucosal follicles or mesenteric lymph nodes, and migrated systemically as antitoxin-containing plasmablasts before homing to the lamina propria. The homing of these migrating ACC precursors was not affected by mucosal exposure to CT, nor did they undergo appreciable antigen-driven division after arrival in gut lamina propria. However, homing was specific for the organ from which they arose, i.e., precursors arising from duodenal challenge homed selectively to jejunum, whereas those from colonic challenge homed to the colon. The organ specificity of homing was determined during the challenge response and was independent of the origin of memory cells participating in the response. The survival of migrating ACC precursors did not differ in segments of gut exposed or nonexposed to CT. However, CT exposure at the time of their migrating evoked another secondary-type response, due to stimulation of comigrating memory cells, thus sustaining the secondary response at a high level. These results and those in a previous report identify important mechanisms that affect the localization, magnitude, and duration of a specific IgA response, at least in the intestine. These include: 1) organ-specific homing of migrating IgA plasmablasts, 2) antigen-driven generation of IgA plasma cells from memory cells within the lamina propria, 3) enhanced memory at the site of mucosal priming compared to that at distant mucosae, and 4) regeneration of memory cells during the secondary response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1311-1315
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1982

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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