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Adaptive Immunity

18 November, 2015 - 16:24

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain adaptive immunity
  • Describe cell-mediated immune response and humoral immune response
  • Describe immune tolerance

The adaptive, or acquired, immune response takes days or even weeks to become established—much longer than the innate response; however, adaptive immunity is more specific to an invading pathogen. Adaptive immunity is an immunity that occurs after exposure to an antigen either from a pathogen or a vaccination. An antigen is a molecule that stimulates a response in the immune system. This part of the immune system is activated when the innate immune response is insufficient to control an infection. In fact, without information from the innate immune system, the adaptive response could not be mobilized. There are two types of adaptive responses: the cell-mediated immune response, which is controlled by activated Tcells, and the humoral immune response, which is controlled by activated B cells and antibodies. Activated T and B cells whose surface binding sites are specific to the molecules on the pathogen greatly increase in numbers and attack the invading pathogen. Their attack can kill pathogens directl or they can secrete antibodies that enhance the phagocytosis of pathogens and disrupt the infection. Adaptive immunity also involves a memory to give the host long-term protection from reinfection with the same type of pathogen; on reexposure, this host memory will facilitate a rapid and powerful response.