Immunoglobulin A N-glycosylation Presents Important Body Fluid-specific Variations in Lactating Mothers

Elisha Goonatilleke, Jennifer T. Smilowitz, Karina V. Mariño, Bruce J. German, Carlito B. Lebrilla, Mariana Barboza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Secretory Immunoglobulin A (SIgA) is central to mucosal immunity: represents one of the main immunological mechanisms of defense against the potential attack of pathogens. During lactation SIgA is produced by plasmablasts in the mammary gland and is present in breast milk, playing a vital role in the passive immunity of the newborn. Interestingly, the different components of SIgA are highly N-glycosylated, and these N-Glycans have an essential role in health maintenance. In this work, we performed a glycomic study to compare N-glycosylation of SIgA purified from mature breast milk and saliva, and plasma IgA from the same lactating participants. Our results revealed a greater diversity than previously reported, with 89 glycan compositions that may correspond to over 250 structures. Among these glycans, 54 glycan compositions were characterized as body-fluid specific. Most of these unique N-Glycan compositions identified in SIgA from mature milk and IgA from plasma were fucosylated and both fucosylated and sialylated species, whereas in salivary SIgA the unique structures were mainly undecorated complex N-Glycans. In addition, we evaluated the effect of delivery mode on (S)IgA glycosylation. Lactating participants who had given birth by vaginal delivery presented an increased proportion of high mannose and fucosylated glycans in salivary SIgA, and selected high mannose, fucosylated, sialylated, and both fucosylated and sialylated glycans in plasma IgA, indicating that the hormonal changes during vaginal delivery could affect plasma and saliva IgA. These results reveal the structural details that provide a new dimension to the roles of (S)IgA N-Glycans in different tissues, and especially in maternal and new-born protection and infant development. The design of optimal recombinant IgA molecules specifically targeted to protect mucosal surfaces will need to include this dimension of structural detail.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2165-2177
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular & cellular proteomics : MCP
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • breast milk
  • chromatography
  • glycomics
  • immunoglobulin A
  • lactation
  • mass spectrometry
  • N-glycosylation
  • plasma or serum analysis
  • saliva

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Immunoglobulin A N-glycosylation Presents Important Body Fluid-specific Variations in Lactating Mothers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this