Epitopes

As mentioned in Chapter 1, immune cells do not interact with, or recognize, an entire immunogen molecule; instead, lymphocytes recognize discrete sites on the macromolecule called epitopes, or antigenic determinants. Epitopes are the immunologically active regions of an immunogen that bind to antigen-specific membrane receptors on lymphocytes or to secreted antibodies. Studies with small antigens have revealed that B and T cells recognize different epitopes on the same antigenic molecule. For example, when mice were immunized with glucagon, a small human hormone of 29 amino acids, antibody was elicited to epitopes in the amino-

terminal portion, whereas the T cells responded only to epi-topes in the carboxyl-terminal portion.

Lymphocytes may interact with a complex antigen on several levels of antigen structure. An epitope on a protein antigen may involve elements of the primary, secondary, tertiary, and even quaternary structure of the protein (see Figure 3-1). In polysaccharides, branched chains are commonly present, and multiple branches may contribute to the conformation of epitopes.

The recognition of antigens by T cells and B cells is fundamentally different (Table 3-4). B cells recognize soluble antigen when it binds to their membrane-bound antibody. Because B cells bind antigen that is free in solution, the epi-topes they recognize tend to be highly accessible sites on the exposed surface of the immunogen. As noted previously, most T cells recognize only peptides combined with MHC molecules on the surface of antigen-presenting cells and altered self-cells; T-cell epitopes, as a rule, cannot be considered apart from their associated MHC molecules.

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Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.

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