The local IgA response is a result of two related events, the induction of sensitized T and B cells in gut- or b ronchial-associated lymphoreticular tissues (GALT or BALT) and the final differentiation of IgA plasma cells in mucosal tissues where IgA is produced and transported to become secretory IgA (S-IgA) antibodies into external secretions. Oral administration of various types of antigens/vaccines may result in two types of response, i.e., S-IgA antibodies at mucosa and systemic unresponsiveness to antigen, a state termed oral tolerance. Regulatory T cells in GALT help account for both S-IgA responses and oral tolerance and thus serve to fine tune responses to orally encountered antigens. Studies in animal models and humans have shown that oral administration of antigens sensitize lymphoid cells in GALT which subsequently home to mucosa and result in S-IgA responses in several external secretions. The significant promise of oral vaccines for prevention of microbial diseases including neisserial diseases is discussed. © 1987 Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.