Recognition of antigen and regulation of an antigenspecific response

T and B lymphocytes are the principal components controlling the adaptive immune response. Each lymphocyte expresses a receptor which is specific for only one antigen. The total repertoire of all lymphocyte receptors is enormous (estimates range from 108 to 1010), but all the receptors on any one cell will be identical. When a lymphocyte recognizes antigen, which occurs when the antigen-specific receptor on the lymphocyte is 'cross-linked' by antigen (with help from other cells if necessary), it will become activated and divide. All its progeny will express the same specificity of receptor, thus forming an amplified clonal population. This clonal population, by virtue of its increased size and its enhanced 'activation' state following antigen recognition, will respond more rapidly and strongly in response to a secondary exposure to the original antigen, but not to a new antigen. This model of immune function, which is described as the clonal selection hypothesis since antigen 'selects' a specific lymphocyte set from within a large repertoire, underlies the adaptive nature of both T and B response.

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