Scientists in Japan have uncovered a molecular mechanism through which antibodies influence gut bacteria to preserve health.

They found that immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies released by the gut can alter how bacteria express their genes.

This encourages the microorganisms to form communities that work together to defend against disease and safeguard the health of their “host.”

Antibodies are involved in the immune response and have long been recognized as fighters of harmful agents. More recently, it has also emerged that they play an important role in regulating good bacteria in the gut.

But until the new study — now published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine — it was not clear how they did this.

Senior study author Dr. Keiichiro Suzuki, of the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences in Japan, says that they already “knew that [IgA] contributed in some way to gut health.”

But they were excited, he adds, to find that the “new mechanism” that they uncovered “actually promotes symbiosis among the bacteria that inhabit the mucus membrane of the gut.”

Our guts contain “complex and dynamic” communities of bacteria and other microorganisms that play an important role in health and disease.

Collectively known as the gut microbiota, these tiny creatures have evolved in partnership with us over millennia to mutual benefit.

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