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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Explain the advantages of the adaptive immune response over the innate immune response
  • List the various characteristics of an antigen
  • Describe the types of T cell antigen receptors
  • Outline the steps of T cell development
  • Describe the major T cell types and their functions

Innate immune responses (and early induced responses) are in many cases ineffective at completely controlling pathogen growth. However, they slow pathogen growth and allow time for the adaptive immune response to strengthen and either control or eliminate the pathogen. The innate immune system also sends signals to the cells of the adaptive immune system, guiding them in how to attack the pathogen. Thus, these are the two important arms of the immune response.

The benefits of the adaptive immune response

The specificity of the adaptive immune response—its ability to specifically recognize and make a response against a wide variety of pathogens—is its great strength. Antigens, the small chemical groups often associated with pathogens, are recognized by receptors on the surface of B and T lymphocytes. The adaptive immune response to these antigens is so versatile that it can respond to nearly any pathogen. This increase in specificity comes because the adaptive immune response has a unique way to develop as many as 10 11 , or 100 trillion, different receptors to recognize nearly every conceivable pathogen. How could so many different types of antibodies be encoded? And what about the many specificities of T cells? There is not nearly enough DNA in a cell to have a separate gene for each specificity. The mechanism was finally worked out in the 1970s and 1980s using the new tools of molecular genetics

Primary disease and immunological memory

The immune system’s first exposure to a pathogen is called a primary adaptive response    . Symptoms of a first infection, called primary disease, are always relatively severe because it takes time for an initial adaptive immune response to a pathogen to become effective.

Upon re-exposure to the same pathogen, a secondary adaptive immune response is generated, which is stronger and faster that the primary response. The secondary adaptive response    often eliminates a pathogen before it can cause significant tissue damage or any symptoms. Without symptoms, there is no disease, and the individual is not even aware of the infection. This secondary response is the basis of immunological memory    , which protects us from getting diseases repeatedly from the same pathogen. By this mechanism, an individual’s exposure to pathogens early in life spares the person from these diseases later in life.

Self recognition

A third important feature of the adaptive immune response is its ability to distinguish between self-antigens, those that are normally present in the body, and foreign antigens, those that might be on a potential pathogen. As T and B cells mature, there are mechanisms in place that prevent them from recognizing self-antigen, preventing a damaging immune response against the body. These mechanisms are not 100 percent effective, however, and their breakdown leads to autoimmune diseases, which will be discussed later in this chapter.

Questions & Answers

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glucocorticoids mineralocorticoid and catecholamines
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polar unequal share of electron while non polar is equal share
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Bocz of unpaired elections
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Amphipathic molecules are molecules with both polar and non polar regions
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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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