Two secretory immune systems (mucosal and barrier) in human intrauterine development, normal and pathological (Review).

Itshak Zusman*, Pavel Gurevich, Herzl Ben-Hur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The role of protein components of the secretory immune system (SIS), such as the polymeric immunoglobulin receptor/secretory component (pIgR/SC), immunoglobulins (Igs) and joining (J) chain, in human intrauterine development was reviewed. These components are already present in 3.5- to 4-week-old embryos, and found in all tissues and organs of epithelial origin. The SIS is made up of two parts: the SIS of mucous membranes and their derivatives (mucosal or secretory immune system), and the SIS of barrier structures (barrier immune system). During organogenesis, SC disappears from the cells of organs that lose their exocrine Ig-secretion function, such as the hypophysis, pancreatic islands and adrenal glands. In cells and tissues of mesenchymal origin, SC is absent from the start, i.e. during their initial development. As examples of the barrier immune system, blood-tissue and tissue-tissue barriers, such as the chorion of the placenta, the epithelium of the choroid plexuses in the brain, as well as other barrier structures to Ig transfer were considered. Besides the SC and J chain, Fc receptors, cellular and tissue structures participate in this process. Three stages were described in Ig transfer: i) passing from the maternal blood into intervillous spaces and the trophoblast, ii) shifting in the intravillous stroma and its cells, and iii) excretion into embryonic (fetal) blood through the endothelium of the trophoblastic villous capillaries. Igs of maternal origin, mainly IgG and least abundant IgA, pass through the placental barrier in healthy embryos. Following a massive antigenic attack, the increased exocrine secretion of IgG, IgA, and IgM to a lesser extent, are already seen in embryos, reflecting increased functional activity of the SIS. Thus, in human intrauterine development, the SIS is a very early immune defensive system, which presents and acts before the appearance of the common lymphoid system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-133
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes


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