Background. The first hours after antigen stimulation, interactions occur influencing the outcome of the immunological reaction. Immunoglobulins originate in blood and/or are locally synthesized. The transfer of Ig isotypes (Igs) in the udder has been studied previously but without the possibility to distinguish between the endothelium and the epithelium. The purpose of this study was to map the Ig transfer through each barrier, separately, and Ig transfer in the local lymph nodes of the bovine udder during the initial innate immune response. Methods. The content of IgG1, IgG2, IgM, IgA and albumin (BSA) was examined in peripheral/afferent mammary lymph and lymph leaving the supramammary lymph nodes, and in blood and milk before (0 h) and during 4 hours after intramammary challenge with Esherichia coli endotoxin in 5 cows. Results. Igs increased most rapidly in afferent lymph resulting in higher concentrations than in efferent lymph at postinfusion hour (PIH) 2, contrary to before challenge. Ig concentrations in milk were lower than in lymph; except for IgA at 0 h; and they increased more slowly. Afferent lymph:serum and efferent lymph:serum concentration ratios (CR) of Igs were similar to those of BSA but slightly lower. Milk:afferent lymph (M:A) CRs of each Ig, except for IgG2, showed strikingly different pattern than those of BSA. The M:A CR of IgG1, IgM and IgA were higher than that of BSA before challenge and the CR of IgA and IgG1 remained higher also thereafter. At PIH 2 there was a drop in Ig CRs, except for IgG2, in contrast to the BSA CR which gradually increased. The M:A CR of IgM and Ig A decreased from 0 h to PIH 4, in spite of increasing permeability. Conclusion. The transfer of Igs through the endothelium appeared to be merely a result of diffusion although their large molecular size may hamper the diffusion. The transfer through the epithelium and the Ig concentrations in milk seemed more influenced by selective mechanisms and local sources, respectively. Our observations indicate a selective mechanism in the transfer of IgG1 through the epithelium also in lactating glands, not previously shown; a local synthesis of IgA and possibly of IgM, released primarily into milk, not into tissue fluid; that IgG2 transfer through both barriers is a result of passive diffusion only and that the content of efferent lymph is strongly influenced by IgG1, IgM and IgA in the mammary tissue, brought to the lymph node by afferent lymph.
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