Recent studies in experimental animals and humans have shown that the mucosal immune system, which is characterized by secretory IgA (S-IgA) antibodies as the major humoral defence factor, contains specialized lymphoid tissues where antigens are encountered from the environment, are taken up and induce B- and T-cell responses. This event is followed by an exodus of specific lymphocytes, which home to various effector sites such as the lamina propria regions and glands. These responses are regulated by T cells and cytokines and lead to plasma cell differentiation and subsequent production of S-IgA antibodies in external secretions. This knowledge has led to practical approaches for vaccine construction and delivery into mucosal inductive sites in an effort to elicit host protection at mucosal surfaces where the infection actually occurs. © 1992.