Immunological tolerance is defined as a state of specific non-responsiveness to a particular antigen induced by previous exposure to that same antigen. The mucosal surfaces comprise the upper and lower respiratory tracts, the gastrointestinal tract and the urogenitary tract, and are a major site of antigenic challenge. The immune system associated with the mucosa has the extraordinary potential to discriminate between antigens that are harmless (e.g. inhaled and dietary antigens) and those that are associated with pathogens. Normally soluble proteins delivered through the mucosal surfaces do not elicit a strong systemic immune response but instead induce a transient local immune response that is replaced by long-term peripheral unresponsiveness - this is termed mucosal tolerance. The phenomenon of oral tolerance is well established and considerable attention has focussed on defining the underlying mechanisms. However, only comparatively recently was the induction of tolerance via the respiratory mucosa described, and it is this form of mucosal tolerance which forms the basis of this review.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy