What is antigen presentation

Antigen presentation ( Lymphocytes ) is a fundamental process that involves the display of antigens to immune cells called lymphocytes.

What is antigen presentation

These lymphocytes include T cells (T lymphocytes) and B cells (B lymphocytes), which are key players in the adaptive immune response. Antigens can be derived from pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi, as well as from abnormal cells, like cancer cells.

The primary goal of antigen presentation is to initiate and regulate the immune response. It accomplishes this by allowing immune cells to interact with antigens, recognize them as harmful, and subsequently mount an attack against them.

What are Antigen-Presenting Cells (APCs)?

Antigen presentation involves specialized immune cells known as antigen-presenting cells (APCs). These cells capture the process and present antigens to T cells. The three main types of APCs are:

  1. Dendritic Cells: Dendritic cells are considered the most effective APCs. They are specialized in capturing antigens from the site of infection and migrating to lymph nodes, where they interact with T cells.
  2. Macrophages: Macrophages are phagocytic cells that engulf and break down pathogens. They can also present antigens to T cells.
  3. B Cells: B cells play a role in both antigen presentation and antibody production. They can capture antigens directly or through antibodies and present them to T cells.

What are the types of Antigen Presentation?

Antigen presentation is a multi-step process that can be divided into two major pathways:

Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) Class I Pathway

  • Intracellular antigens (e.g., viral proteins) are processed within infected cells.
  • These antigens are then bound to MHC Class I molecules.
  • MHC Class I-antigen complexes are presented on the cell surface.
  • CD8+ T cells, also known as cytotoxic T cells, recognize these complexes and initiate an immune response, which typically leads to the destruction of infected cells.

Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) Class II Pathway

  • Extracellular antigens are engulfed by APCs, such as dendritic cells or macrophages.
  • These antigens are digested into smaller fragments and loaded onto MHC Class II molecules.
  • MHC Class II-antigen complexes are presented on the APC’s surface.
  • CD4+ T cells, also known as helper T cells, recognize these complexes and help coordinate the immune response by activating other immune cells, including B cells and cytotoxic T cells.

Importance of Antigen Presentation

Antigen presentation is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Immune Recognition: It allows the immune system to differentiate between self and non-self, ensuring that it targets only foreign invaders while sparing the body’s healthy cells.
  2. Tailored Response: Antigen presentation determines the type of immune response initiated. For example, MHC Class I presentation triggers a cytotoxic response, while MHC Class II presentation activates helper T cells for a coordinated immune response.
  3. Memory Formation: Effective antigen presentation leads to the formation of immunological memory. This means that the immune system “remembers” previous encounters with specific antigens, enabling a faster and more potent response upon reinfection.

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