Like the gastrointestinal mucosa, the mucosae of the respiratory system, the genitourinary system, and the conjunctiva must maintain a barrier against invasion of diverse microbes in the environment and balance effective protective responses to invading microbes and suppression of responses to numerous commensal organisms. Many of the features we described for gastrointestinal immunity are shared by mucosal immunity in these different locations. These shared features include relatively impermeable mucus- and defensin-secreting epithelial barriers; localized collections of lymphoid tissues just beneath the epithelium; the constant sampling of antigens located outside the barriers by immune cells within the barrier; the constant integration of proinflammatory and regulatory signals generated by microbial products binding to epithelial and DC TLRs; the strong reliance on secretory IgA-mediated humoral immunity to prevent microbial invasion; and the presence of effector and regulatory DC populations that stimulate particular types of effector and regulatory T cell responses. In addition to these shared features, each different mucosal tissue has unique features that reflect the distinct functions and anatomy of the organs it is part of and the distinct range of environmental antigens and microbes that are present at each site. We will now discuss some of the major features of mucosal immunity in these organs, focusing mainly on the respiratory system.
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