Because immunoglobulin A (IgA) is the predominant immunoglobulin at mucosal surfaces, IgA proteases produced by pathogenic bacteria are considered potential virulence factors for organisms that cause disease or gain entry at mucous membranes. To determine the role of IgA protease in the pathogenicity of mycoplasmal disease, a variety of human and animal mycoplasma and ureaplasma species were examined for IgA protease activity with human, murine, porcine, and canine IgA. None of the mycoplasma species examined showed detectable IgA protease activity with any of the IgAs tested. Twenty-eight strains of Ureaplasma urealyticum isolated from human urogenital tissues cleaved human IgA1, but no cleavage of human IgA2 or murine, porcine, or canine IgA was observed. Ureaplasmas isolated from nonhuman hosts (feline, canine, avian, and bovine [Ureaplasma diversum]) did not cleave human IgA1. Two strains of canine ureaplasmas were able to cleave canine IgA, but not murine IgA. Thus, ureaplasmas from other species can produce IgA protease, but the specificity of the enzyme was restricted to the IgA of the appropriate host. This finding suggests that IgA proteases could play a role in the selective host specificity of mucosal pathogens
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