Rare detection of antiviral functions of polyclonal IgA isolated from plasma and breast milk compartments in women chronically infected with HIV-1

Matthew Zirui Tay, Erika L. Kunz, Aaron Deal, Lu Zhang, Kelly E. Seaton, Wes Rountree, Joshua A. Eudailey, Jack Heptinstall, Michael D. McRaven, Edgar Matias, Erin McGuire, Nicole L. Yates, Lautaro G. Perez, David C. Montefiori, R. Glenn Overman, Thomas J. Hope, Xiaoying Shen, Linda Kalilani, Genevieve G. Fouda, Georgia D. Tomaras*Sallie R. Permar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The humoral response to invading mucosal pathogens comprises multiple antibody isotypes derived from systemic and mucosal compartments. To understand the contribution of each antibody isotype/source to the mucosal humoral response, parallel investigation of the specificities and functions of antibodies within and across isotypes and compartments is required. The role of IgA against HIV-1 is complex, with studies supporting a protective role as well as a role for serum IgA in blocking effector functions. Thus, we explored the fine specificity and function of IgA in both plasma and mucosal secretions important to infant HIV-1 infection, i.e., breast milk. IgA and IgG were isolated from milk and plasma from 20 HIV-1-infected lactating Malawian women. HIV-1 binding specificities, neutralization potency, inhibition of virus-epithelial cell binding, and antibody-mediated phagocytosis were measured. Fine-specificity mapping showed IgA and IgG responses to multiple HIV-1 Env epitopes, including conformational V1/V2 and linear V2, V3, and constant region 5 (C5). Env IgA was heterogeneous between the milk and systemic compartments (Env IgA, 0.00 to 0.63, P 0.0046 to 1.00). Furthermore, IgA and IgG appeared compartmentalized as there was a lack of correlation between the specificities of Env-specific IgA and IgG (in milk, 0.07 to 0.26, P 0.35 to 0.83). IgA and IgG also differed in functions: while neutralization and phagocytosis were consistently mediated by milk and plasma IgG, they were rarely detected in IgA from both milk and plasma. Understanding the ontogeny of the divergent IgG and IgA antigen specificity repertoires and their effects on antibody function will inform vaccination approaches targeted toward mucosal pathogens. IMPORTANCE Antibodies within the mucosa are part of the first line of defense against mucosal pathogens. Evaluating mucosal antibody isotypes, specificities, and antiviral functions in relationship to the systemic antibody profile can provide insights into whether the antibody response is coordinated in response to mucosal pathogens. In a natural immunity cohort of HIV-infected lactating women, we mapped the fine specificity and function of IgA in breast milk and plasma and compared these with the autologous IgG responses. Antigen specificities and functions differed between IgG and IgA, with antiviral functions (neutralization and phagocytosis) predominantly mediated by the IgG fraction in both milk and plasma. Furthermore, the specificity of milk IgA differed from that of systemic IgA. Our data suggest that milk IgA and systemic IgA should be separately examined as potential correlates of risk. Preventive vaccines may need to employ different strategies to elicit functional antiviral immunity by both antibody isotypes in the mucosa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02084
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2019


  • Effector functions
  • HIV-1
  • IgA
  • Mucosal immunity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology

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