Epithelial endoplasmic reticulum stress orchestrates a protective IgA response

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Science  01 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6430, pp. 993-998
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat7186

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Stressed gut epithelium gets some relief

Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is the most abundantly expressed antibody isotype and can be found at various mucosal surfaces in the body, including the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. IgA is polyreactive and can coat and restrain both commensal bacteria and enteric pathogens. Grootjans et al. found that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in the intestinal epithelial cells of mice induced the T cell– and microbiota-independent expansion of peritoneal B1b cells, which secrete IgA. Similarly, human subjects homozygous for a variant of an autophagy gene (ATG16L1) known to cause ER stress showed increased numbers of GI IgA+ cells compared with controls. Thus, epithelial ER stress serves as an advantageous “eustress” response that can functionally antagonize its well-characterized role in promoting inflammation.

Science, this issue p. 993


Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is the major secretory immunoglobulin isotype found at mucosal surfaces, where it regulates microbial commensalism and excludes luminal factors from contacting intestinal epithelial cells (IECs). IgA is induced by both T cell–dependent and –independent (TI) pathways. However, little is known about TI regulation. We report that IEC endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress induces a polyreactive IgA response, which is protective against enteric inflammation. IEC ER stress causes TI and microbiota-independent expansion and activation of peritoneal B1b cells, which culminates in increased lamina propria and luminal IgA. Increased numbers of IgA-producing plasma cells were observed in healthy humans with defective autophagy, who are known to exhibit IEC ER stress. Upon ER stress, IECs communicate signals to the peritoneum that induce a barrier-protective TI IgA response.

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