IgA: Structure, function and developability

Jennifer Woof, Patricia de Sousa-Pereira

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)
187 Downloads (Pure)


Immunoglobulin A (IgA) plays a key role in defending mucosal surfaces against attack by infectious microorganisms. Such sites present a major site of susceptibility due to their vast surface area and their constant exposure to ingested and inhaled material. The importance of IgA to effective immune defence is signalled by the fact that more IgA is produced than all the other immunoglobulin classes combined. Indeed, IgA is not just the most prevalent antibody class at mucosal sites, but is also present at significant concentrations in serum. The unique structural features of the IgA heavy chain allow IgA to polymerise, resulting in mainly dimeric forms, along with some higher polymers, in secretions. Both serum IgA, which is principally monomeric, and secretory forms of IgA are capable of neutralising and removing pathogens through a range of mechanisms, including triggering the IgA Fc receptor known as FcαRI or CD89 on phagocytes. The effectiveness of these elimination processes is highlighted by the fact that various pathogens have evolved mechanisms to thwart such IgA-mediated clearance. As the structure–function relationships governing the varied capabilities of this immunoglobulin class come into increasingly clear focus, and means to circumvent any inherent limitations are developed, IgA-based monoclonal antibodies are set to emerge as new and potent options in the therapeutic arena.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57
Number of pages30
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2019


  • immunoglobulin A
  • IgA
  • structure
  • FcαRI
  • CD89
  • immune evasion
  • therapeutic antibodies


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