Lymphoblasts from the mesenteric lymph nodes (MN) of mice home to the mammary glands of syngeneic recipients late in pregnancy and during lactation, and within hours of transfer most can be shown to contain IgA. Homing does not occur in virgins, in early pregnancy, or after weaning. Homing MN lymphoblasts are sensitive to antiserum to IgA plus complement, but not to other class-specific antisera. Thus, lymphoblasts in MN with the potential to home to the mammary gland are already committed to IgA synthesis and bear surface IgA before reaching their destination. These results explain observations, made by others, of specific IgA antibodies and IgA plasma cells in milk and colostrum after oral immunization. Under natural conditions it is likely that IgA precursor cells, after stimulation in the gut-associated lymphoid tissue by intestinal antigens, migrate to the mammary gland where they secrete antibodies which constitute an important defense mechanism of the newborn. In the absence of lactation, these cells probably form part of the normal traffic to the lamina propria of the small intestine.

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