Role of Antigen Presenting Cells

As early as 1959, immunologists were confronted with data suggesting that T cells and B cells recognized antigen by different mechanisms. The dogma of the time, which persisted until the 1980s, was that cells of the immune system recognize the entire protein in its native conformation. However, experiments by P. G. H. Gell and B. Benacerraf demonstrated that, while a primary antibody response and cell-mediated response were induced by a protein in its native conformation, a secondary antibody response (mediated by B cells) could be induced only by native antigen, whereas a secondary cell-mediated response could be induced by either the native or the denatured antigen (see Table 3-5). These findings were viewed as an interesting enigma, but implications for antigen presentation were completely overlooked until the early 1980s.

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