Secretory antibodies in breast milk promote long-term intestinal homeostasis by regulating the gut microbiota and host gene expression

Eric W. Rogier, Aubrey L. Frantz, Maria E.C. Bruno, Leia Wedlund, Donald A. Cohen, Arnold J. Stromberg, Charlotte S. Kaetzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

346 Scopus citations


Maintenance of intestinal homeostasis requires a healthy relationship between the commensal gut microbiota and the host immune system. Breast milk supplies the first source of antigen-specific immune protection in the gastrointestinal tract of suckling mammals, in the form of secretory IgA (SIgA). SIgA is transported across glandular and mucosal epithelial cells into external secretions by the polymeric Ig receptor (pIgR). Here, a breeding scheme with polymeric Ig receptor-sufficient and -deficient mice was used to study the effects of breast milk-derived SIgA on development of the gut microbiota and host intestinal immunity. Early exposure to maternal SIgA prevented the translocation of aerobic bacteria from the neonatal gut into draining lymph nodes, including the opportunistic pathogen Ochrobactrum anthropi. By the age of weaning, mice that received maternal SIgA in breast milk had a significantly different gut microbiota from mice that did not receive SIgA, and these differences were magnified when the mice reached adulthood. Early exposure to SIgA in breast milk resulted in a pattern of intestinal epithelial cell gene expression in adult mice that differed from that of mice that were not exposed to passive SIgA, including genes associated with intestinal inflammatory diseases in humans. Maternal SIgA was also found to ameliorate colonic damage caused by the epithelial-disrupting agent dextran sulfate sodium. These findings reveal unique mechanisms through which SIgA in breast milk may promote lifelong intestinal homeostasis, and provide additional evidence for the benefits of breastfeeding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3074-3079
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 25 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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