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Shigella flexneri, by invading intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) and inducing inflammatory responses of the colonic mucosa, causes bacillary dysentery. Although M cells overlying Peyer's patches are commonly considered the primary site of entry of S. flexneri, indirect evidence suggests that bacteria can also use IECs as a portal of entry to the lamina propria. Passive delivery of secretory IgA (SIgA), the major immunoglobulin secreted at mucosal surfaces, has been shown to protect rabbits from experimental shigellosis, but no information exists as to its molecular role in maintaining luminal epithelial integrity. We have established that the interaction of virulent S. flexneri with the apical pole of a model intestinal epithelium consisting of polarized Caco-2 cell monolayers resulted in the progressive disruption of the tight junction network and actin depolymerization, eventually resulting in cell death. The lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-specific agglutinating SIgAC5 monoclonal antibody (MAb), but not monomeric IgAC5 or IgGC20 MAbs of the same specificity, achieved protective functions through combined mechanisms, including limitation of the interaction between S. flexneri and epithelial cells, maintenance of the tight junction seal, preservation of the cell morphology, reduction of NF-κB nuclear translocation, and inhibition of proinflammatory mediator secretion. Our results add to the understanding of the function of SIgA-mediated immune exclusion by identifying a mode of action whereby the formation of immune complexes translates into maintenance of the integrity of epithelial cells lining the mucosa. This novel mechanism of protection mediated by SIgA is important to extend the arsenal of effective strategies to fight against S. flexneri mucosal invasion.

Original publication




Journal article


Infection and immunity

Publication Date





3027 - 3034


R&D Laboratory of the Division of Immunology and Allergy, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Intestinal Mucosa, Caco-2 Cells, Tight Junctions, Humans, Shigella flexneri, Dysentery, Bacillary, Immunoglobulin A, Secretory, Microscopy, Electron, Scanning, Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay