Colon pp 79-101 | Cite as

Immunology of the Colon

  • D. P. Jewell
  • W. S. Selby
Part of the Topics in Gastroenterology book series (TGEN)


The colon provides an enormous reservoir of antigenic material — bacterial antigens, dietary proteins and polypeptides, and self-antigens from shed epithelial cells. The majority of immunological studies, however, have concentrated on the small intestine as this is thought to be the major site of immune responsiveness to exogenous antigens. Nevertheless, there is much evidence to suggest that the colon is able to mount local immune responses to the normal gut flora. The following examples illustrate this point. Normal subjects are able to synthesize secretory IgA antibodies to a wide variety of commensal intestinal bacteria.1,2 In children with double-barreled colostomies, the introduction of polio virus into the isolated distal colon stimulates local specific IgA antibody production in addition to a systemic IgM and IgG response.3 Patients with shigella dysentery were shown by Davies4 to produce antibody to the infecting organism in their stool before an antibody response in serum could be detected. Finally, the colonic immune system may play an important role in the inhibition of pathogenic organisms in certain carrier states.5 The ability of the colon to respond to its contents is also shown by the fact that the colon of a fetal animal is virtually devoid of immune cells. The full complement of lymphoid and plasma cells only develops after birth in response to the colonization of the lumen by bacteria.


Ulcerative Colitis Lamina Propria Colonic Mucosa Intraepithelial Lymphocyte Secretory Component 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. P. Jewell
    • 1
  • W. S. Selby
    • 1
  1. 1.The John Radcliffe HospitalHeadingtonEngland

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