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Summary: The aim of our study was to analyze HIV-specific humoral immunity in the intestinal mucosa at different stages of HIV infection in comparison with serum and saliva. Duodenal biopsy specimens from 30 AIDS patients and 9 HIV-infected patients without AIDS were cultured for 48 hours. Culture supernatants, as well as simultaneously obtained serum and saliva samples, were adjusted to the same immunoglobulin concentrations and tested for HIV-specific IgG and IgA by Western blot. The HIV antigen pattern differed clearly between IgA and IgG but was similar for each isotype independent of its origin (i.e., serum, saliva, or biopsy specimen supernatants). Short-term cultured duodenal biopsy specimens from HIV-infected patients at all stages produced predominantly IgG, which was broadly reactive with HIV antigens. Lower titers of HIV-specific IgA, which recognized few antigens, were found, mostly the glycoprotein gp160. At later stages of the disease compared with earlier stages, the reaction pattern of mucosal IgA from saliva and biopsy supernatants was even more restricted; secretory component was frequently absent. The abnormal predominance of HIV-specific IgG over IgA in mucosal secretions may result from abnormal antibody production in the mucosa rather than from serum leakage. Mucosal inflammation induced by HIV-IgG immune complexes and insufficient immune exclusion by secretory IgA may not only lead to increased mucosal HIV replication but may also contribute to gastrointestinal disease in HIV-infected patients.

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