As mentioned earlier, immune responses can be divided into humoral and cell-mediated responses. Humoral immunity refers to immunity that can be conferred upon a nonimmune individual by administration of serum antibodies from an immune individual. In contrast, cell-mediated immunity can be transferred only by administration of T cells from an immune individual.
The humoral branch of the immune system is at work in the interaction of B cells with antigen and their subsequent proliferation and differentiation into antibody-secreting plasma cells (Figure 1-7). Antibody functions as the effector of the humoral response by binding to antigen and neutralizing it or facilitating its elimination. When an antigen is coated with antibody, it can be eliminated in several ways. For example, antibody can cross-link several antigens, forming clusters that are more readily ingested by phagocytic cells. Binding of antibody to antigen on a microorganism can also activate the complement system, resulting in lysis of the foreign organism. Antibody can also neutralize toxins or viral particles by coating them, which prevents them from binding to host cells.
Effector T cells generated in response to antigen are responsible for cell-mediated immunity (see Figure 1-7). Both activated TH cells and cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) serve as effector cells in cell-mediated immune reactions. Cy-tokines secreted by TH cells can activate various phagocytic cells, enabling them to phagocytose and kill microorganisms more effectively. This type of cell-mediated immune response is especially important in ridding the host of bacteria and protozoa contained by infected host cells. CTLs participate in cell-mediated immune reactions by killing altered self-cells; they play an important role in the killing of virus-infected cells and tumor cells.
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