Free light chains as an emerging biomarker in saliva: biological variability and comparisons with salivary IgA and steroid hormones

Alec Rapson, Emily Collman, Sian Faustini, Zehra Yonel, Iain Chapple, Mark Drayson, Alex Richter, John P. Campbell, Jennifer Heaney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
207 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Salivary free light chains (FLCs) are an emerging biomarker in health and behavioural research. However, little is known regarding biological variability of salivary FLCs and how they relate to other established salivary biomarkers. This study aimed to investigate the diurnal and day-to-day variation of salivary FLCs and their relationship with salivary IgA and steroid hormones. Methods: A total of 46 healthy adults participated in studies exploring the biological variability of FLCs. Diurnal variation was investigated by collecting saliva samples immediately upon waking, 0.5h, 3h, 6h, 9h and 14h post-waking. Saliva samples were assessed for FLCs, IgA, cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Between-day variation in FLCs and IgA was assessed by collecting saliva samples immediately upon waking for seven consecutive days. Participants underwent a dental examination to exclude oral health as a potential confounding variable. Within and between-person day-to day variation was explored in relation to a range of different factors: awakening time, sleep, exercise, well-being and alcohol consumption.
Results: Salivary secretion rates of FLCs decreased following waking and up to 3h post-waking and then plateaued. This same pattern was observed for IgA. DHEA was stable upon waking and higher levels were seen in the morning with significantly lower levels thereafter. Cortisol levels significantly increased 0.5h post-waking then continued to decline across the day. FLCs were significantly correlated with IgA but not cortisol or DHEA. Both FLCs and IgA parameters showed day-to-day variability, with coefficients of variation ≥ 40%. Earlier waking time was significantly correlated with higher FLC and IgA secretion rates. Inter-person differences in saliva parameter variability were observed but the degree of variation in FLCs and IgA was related within person. Inter-person day-to-day variation appeared to be uninfluenced by lifestyle or behavioural factors.
Conclusions: Saliva FLCs secretion exhibits diurnal fluctuation that mirrors IgA fluctuation. Findings strongly indicate salivary FLC secretion is orchestrated by local plasma cells. FLCs and IgA both showed notable variability day-to-day, which was similar within person and influenced by awakening time. FLCs offer a promising adjunct to IgA in the measurement of oral immune activation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-86
Number of pages9
JournalBrain, Behaviour, and Immunity
Early online date23 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Cortisol
  • DHEA
  • Diurnal
  • Free light chain
  • IgA
  • Oral immunity
  • Saliva
  • Variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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