We report that IgA(-/-) mice exhibit specific defects in IgG antibody responses to various polysaccharide vaccines (Francisella tularensis LPS and Pneumovax), but not protein vaccines such as Fluzone. This defect further included responses to polysaccharide-protein conjugate vaccines (Prevnar and Haemophilus influenzae type b-tetanus toxoid vaccine). In agreement with these findings, IgA(-/-) mice were protected from pathogen challenge with protein- but not polysaccharide-based vaccines. Interestingly, after immunization with live bacteria, IgA(+/+) and IgA(-/-) mice were both resistant to lethal challenge and their IgG anti-polysaccharide antibody responses were comparable. Immunization with live bacteria, but not purified polysaccharide, induced production of serum B cell-activating factor (BAFF), a cytokine important for IgG class switching; supplementing IgA(-/-) cell cultures with BAFF enhanced in vitro polyclonal IgG production. Taken together, these findings show that IgA deficiency impairs IgG class switching following vaccination with polysaccharide antigens and that live bacterial immunization can overcome this defect. Since IgA deficient patients also often show defects in antibody responses following immunization with polysaccharide vaccines, our findings could have relevance to the clinical management of this population.