affinity maturation

Affinity maturation is a process of affinity-selected differentiation of activated B cells. Repeated exposures to the same antigen provokes greater antibody ligating affinity in the antibody secreted by successive generations of plasma cells.

The mechanisms by which affinity maturation is achieved are somatic hypermutation and clonal selection. Somatic hypermutation (SHM) is a diversity generating, regulated cellular mechanism through which antibodies are produced against an enormous variety of different potential antigens. The binding affinities of the variable regions of immunoglobulins are altered by AID-enzyme-promoted mutations during antigen-stimulated proliferation of B cells. These somatic hypermutations are transcribed and translated into thousands of slightly different immunoglobulins coded by the hypermutated V regions. The complementarity determining regions of these antibodies possess different affinities for the encountered antigen, and clonal selection will favor cells equipped with highest affinity antibodies because these B cells are favoured in terms of activation and co-operation with T cells.

Clonal selection is the phenomenon whereby a previously unencountered cognate antigen (epitope) can stimulate naïve B lymphocytes to proliferate and differentiate into clones of memory B cells and plasma cells that produce antibodies with the highest affinity for the antigen. Those B cells that have highest affinity BCR against the encountered antigen will be selected for proliferation, antibody production, and committment to an antigen-specific memory lineage.

Thus, SHM prepares a spectrum of antibodies with different affinities for the antigen, while clonal selection ensures that the immune system will react increasingly effectively (highest affinity) to an encountered antigen and will be ready for rapid response to subsequent encounters with the antigen.

Tables  Complement Receptors  Cytokines  Fc receptors  Immune Cytokines  Immunoglobulins  Interferons  Scavenger Receptors  Toll-like Receptors


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. . . since 10/06/06