Selective immunoglobulin A deficiency is a condition where there’s a lack of immunoglobulin or antibody A, called IgA for short. It’s called “selective” because all the other antibody classes, IgM, IgG, IgE and IgD are produced normally. IgA is in charge of protecting the mucosal surfaces of the body against foreign invaders, so without it, there’s a higher risk of mucosal infections.
Now, B cells make antibodies, and normally, B cells are “born” in the bone marrow, which is the spongy tissue inside some bones of the body. This is where they develop their B cell receptors on their surface which eventually can get released - and when they’re freely floating in the blood they’re called antibodies.
Antibodies are Y- shaped protein molecules, formed by two heavy and two light chains, each of which has a variable region, at one end, and a constant region (C region) at the other end. Variable regions are unique to each B cell and they are designed to bind to a very specific antigen, whereas C regions determine the antibody class.
Initially all of the B cells have IgM and IgD class antibodies on their surface, with each B cell recognizing and binding to its own unique antigen. Mature B cells leave the bone marrow and migrate to peripheral lymphoid organs, like the spleen, lymph nodes or mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue, which is also called MALT.
MALT is composed of clusters of lymphoid tissue scattered under the mucous membranes lining the mouth, airways, and digestive tract. This is a really strategic position, because a variety of antigens are constantly being picked up and filtered from these body tissues. As a result, B cells are likely to encounter an antigen they recognize. A bit like spending time at a train station during rush hour to look for someone that catches your eye.