To determine the role of humoral mucosal immune response in protection against shigellosis, we have obtained a monoclonal dimeric immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibody specific for Shigella flexneri serotype 5a lipopolysaccharide (mIgA) and used a murine pulmonary infection model that mimics the lesions occurring in natural intestinal infection. Adult BALB/c mice challenged with 10(7) S. flexneri organisms developed a rapid inflammatory response characterized by polymorphonuclear cell infiltration around and within the bronchi and strong systemic interleukin 6 response. Implantation of hybridoma cells in the back of mice, resulting in the development of a myeloma tumor producing mIgA in the serum and subsequently secretory mIgA in local secretions, or direct intranasal administration of these antibodies, protected the animals against subsequent intranasal challenge with S. flexneri serotype 5a. Absence of histopathological lesion and significant decrease in bacterial load of the lungs and of systemic interleukin 6 response were the three major criteria of protection. This protection was shown to be serotype-specific and dependent on local concentration of mIgA. These data demonstrate that mucosal antibodies directed against a single polysaccharidic surface epitope of Shigella can protect against the disease.