In immunology, antigens (Ag) are structures (aka substances) specifically bound by antibodies (Ab) or a cell surface version of Ab ~ B cell antigen receptor (BCR). The term antigen originally described a structural molecule that binds specifically to an antibody only in the form of native antigen. It was expanded later to refer to any molecule or a linear molecular fragment after processing the native antigen that can be recognized by T-cell receptor (TCR). BCR and TCR are both highly variable antigen receptors diversified by somatic V(D)J recombination. Both T cells and B cells are cellular components of adaptive immunity. The Ag abbreviation stands for an antibody generator.
Antigens are "targeted" by antibodies. Each antibody is specifically produced by the immune system to match an antigen after cells in the immune system come into contact with it; this allows a precise identification or matching of the antigen and the initiation of a tailored response.
Exogenous antigens are antigens that have entered the body from the outside, for example, by inhalation, ingestion or injection. The immune system's response to exogenous antigens is often subclinical.
Endogenous antigens are generated within normal cells as a result of normal cell metabolism, or because of viral or intracellular bacterial infection. The fragments are then presented on the cell surface in the complex with MHC class I molecules. If activated cytotoxic CD8+ T cells recognize them, the T cells secrete various toxins that cause the lysis or apoptosis of the infected cell.
An autoantigen is usually a normal protein or protein complex (and sometimes DNA or RNA) that is recognized by the immune system of patients suffering from a specific autoimmune disease.
Neoantigens are those that are entirely absent from the normal human genome. As compared with nonmutated self-antigens, neoantigens are of relevance to tumor control, as the quality of the T cell pool that is available for these antigens is not affected by central T cell tolerance. Technology to systematically analyze T cell reactivity against neoantigens became available only recently.
For virus-associated tumors, such as cervical cancer and a subset of head and neck cancers, epitopes derived from viral open reading frames contribute to the pool of neoantigens.
Tumor antigens are those antigens that are presented by MHC class I or MHC class II molecules on the surface of tumor cells. Antigens found only on such cells are called tumor-specific antigens (TSAs) and generally result from a tumor-specific mutation.
Virology: Current Research
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