IgA-deficient humans exhibit gut microbiota dysbiosis despite production of

compensatory IgM

The effects of IgA deficiency on human gut microbiota composition.

OCT 22, 2018

Written by Jason R Catanzaro, Juliet D Strauss, Agata Bielecka, Anthony F Porto, Francis M Lobo, Andrea Urban, Whitman B Schofield, Noah W Palm

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Immunoglobulin A is the dominant antibody isotype found in mucosal secretions and enforces host microbiota symbiosis in mice, yet selective IgA-deficiency (sIgAd) is the most common primary immunodeficiency in humans and is often described as asymptomatic. Here, we determined the effects of IgA deficiency on human gut microbiota composition and evaluated the possibility that secretion of IgM can compensate for a lack of secretory IgA. We used 16S rRNA gene sequencing and bacterial cell sorting to evaluate gut microbiota composition and IgA or IgM coating of the gut microbiota in 15 sIgAd subjects and 15 matched controls. Although sIgAd subjects secreted a significant amount of IgM into the intestinal lumen, this was insufficient to fully compensate for the lack of secretory IgA. Indeed, sIgAd subjects displayed an altered gut microbiota composition as compared to healthy controls, which was characterized by a trend towards decreased overall microbial diversity and significant shifts in the relative abundances of specific microbial taxa. While IgA targets a defined subset of the microbiota via high-level coating, compensatory IgM binds a broader subset of the microbiota in a less targeted manner. We conclude that IgA plays a critical and non-redundant role in controlling gut microbiota composition in humans and that secretory IgA has evolved to maintain a diverse and stable gut microbial community that promotes human health, enhances resistance to infection, and is resilient to perturbation.



In conclusion, these studies demonstrate that IgA plays a critical and non-redundant role in shaping the composition of the gut microbiota in humans and IgM can partially, but not completely, compensate for the absence of IgA. Thus, while the relatively high rate of asymptomatic sIgAd has been used to argue against the importance of IgA, our studies highlight the critical role of this secretory antibody in the maintenance of host microbiota symbiosis.