Cholera toxin (CT) has been found to be an extremely potent immunogen for mucosal IgA responses when administered via the intestine. This study has examined both mucosal and systemic immune responses after feeding CT and compared these responses with those obtained after feeding keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH), another protein that is strongly immunogenic in mice. Feeding CT to mice resulted not only in IgA antibody in intestinal secretions but also resulted in substantial plasma IgG and IgA antibody levels. Feeding KLH in much larger quantity resulted in little or no antibody response in intestinal secretions or plasma. Lymphoid cells from various tissues of mice fed CT were cultured in vitro for 10 days and the supernatant was tested for antibody to CT. Spontaneous antibody synthesis (no antigen added to cultures) was present in cultures of each cell type, but IgG anti-CT was found mainly in cultures of spleen and mesenteric lymph node cells and IgA anti-CT mainly in cultures of Peyer's patch and lamina propria cells. Peyer's patch cells cultured with CT as antigen synthesized both IgG and IgA anti-CT, suggesting that the antibody response to both isotypes originated in this site. Helper T cell activity for both IgA and IgG anti-CT was detected in spleens, mesenteric lymph nodes, and Peyer's patches. Lastly, when KLH and CT were fed to mice at the same time, an intestinal IgA anti-KLH and plasma IgG anti-KLH response was stimulated, a response pattern similar to that occurring to CT after CT was fed alone. We conclude that mucosal stimulation by CT generates both a systemic IgG and mucosal IgA response to this antigen, and that CT can cause a similar pattern of response to an unrelated protein antigen when both are administered into the intestine at the same time. The data favor the idea that both the IgG and IgA responses originate in GALT and then disseminate to other tissues. We propose that CT accomplishes these effects by altering the regulatory environment within GALT.

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