What’s the Relation Between the Immune System and the Antibody Response?
We are surrounded by biomass of bacteria that exceeds that of all life on the planet. The human body alone contains billions of bacteria, which outnumber the human cells in the body.
The immune system has developed antibodies for all known bacteria, but what happens when a novel one rears its head? How exactly does the immune system respond to the invasion of a foreign substance? How does it produce the antibodies and eliminate the threat?
It does so by activating its two sets of defense mechanisms, the so-called innate immune system, and the adaptive immune system.
The Innate Immune System
The innate immune system includes a set of non-specific defense mechanisms that trigger as soon as an antigen enters the body.
The skin, various blood chemicals, and certain immune system cells start working together to deal with an environmental breach effectively, that is, kill the antigen.
Specifically, macrophages and neutrophils (types of white blood cells) arrive first at the scene to produce protein-digesting enzymes and other destructive chemicals to eliminate the antigen.
If they succeed, they start the phagocytosis process to remove what’s left of the antigen and all the cells that they damaged. They engulf the antigen using their plasma membranes and digest the proteins that were damaged.
The Adaptive Immune System
The adaptive immune system mechanisms activate if these early responders fail.
It consists of a range of molecules and cells, the most important of which are lymphocytes (another type of white blood cell). They take over to successfully degrade and remove the antigen.
Using their memory function, they either recognize the antigen as a known type of infection or flag it as a novel one.
In the case of a known antigen, they immediately kill the cells that present the antigen. If they determine that the antigen is novel, they start producing specific proteins, that is, antibodies that will bind to the antigen and destroy it.
This means that the adaptive immune system can be either humoral or cell-mediated.
Lymphocytes that recognize a foreign substance and produce specific antibodies for that antigen are referred to as B cells. The process that they activate is known as a humoral immune response.
The lymphocytes that release cytotoxins that bind to infected cells to break them down are called T cells. Their process is known as a cell-mediated (antibody-mediated) immune response.
The Antibody Response
An antibody response represents the culmination of the entire immune system’s fight against an antigen that poses a threat. It’s the culmination of the processes of neutrophils, macrophages, B cells and T cells, and all their interactions with various cell receptors.
It comes down to the response of T cells that release cytokine proteins that bind to a foreign antigen and destroy it.
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