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Humoral Immunity

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Biology

The humoral immune response, also known as antibody-mediated immunity, is part of the adaptive immune system. The immune system is what protects an organism from disease, and is activated when antigens, any sort of substance that triggers an immune response, are found in the body. Once these antigens are detected, B cell lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, undergo a differentiation process that creates memory B cells and effector B cells.

Since the humoral immune response is part of the adaptive immune system, memory B cells remember the current pathogen, bacteria, or viruses that infect the body, making the production of antibodies faster in the future, and the effector B cells release antibodies.

B cell lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that produce antibodies and can differentiate into different types of B cells.

Memory B cells are a type of long-lived white blood cell that is able to remember previous infections in order to help other cells produce antibodies faster.

Effector B cells are also called plasma cells and release antibodies.

Antibodies are Y-shaped proteins produced by the effector B cells in order to remove antigens from the body.

The types of humoral immunity

There are two types of humoral immunity: active and passive.

Active humoral immunity

Active humoral immunity occurs when an individual produces their own antibodies and memory cells in response to a pathogen. This lasts for decades as memory cells reside in the body for a long period of time after being produced. This immunity either comes naturally or artificially.

If the active humoral immunity occurs naturally then it means that the body has fought off the pathogens from a natural infection. Artificial immunity comes from a vaccine. Vaccines are made up of weakened pathogens for the body to fight off, so disposing of full-strength pathogen infections in the future will be quicker and easier.

An example of active humoral immunity is getting the flu and recovering. Then, getting it again a few months later and having a faster recovery time and less severe symptoms compared to the first infection. Those who are older or immunocompromised will receive a flu vaccine in order to receive artificial active immunity because if they get the flu it can be harder for them to fight it off.

Passive humoral immunity

Passive humoral immunity occurs when an organism passes antibodies to another. Unlike active humoral immunity, it doesn’t use memory cells and typically only lasts for a few months. It also has natural and artificial types. Two examples of natural passive humoral immunity are the antibodies that a mother passes to her baby through breast milk and the antibodies that a mother passes to a fetus via the placenta.

An example of artificial passive immunity is immunisation, a way someone gains protection against disease due to vaccination. While vaccination provides immediate protection, it doesn’t always last forever depending on the disease being vaccinated against. People can get immunised through their doctors and healthcare facilities.

Role of B cells in the immune system

B cells, created in the bone marrow, play an important role in the immune system by producing antibodies. Antibodies are important proteins that act to neutralise a pathogen by binding to them. These antibodies are known as neutralising antibodies and they have a few different ways they can disable a pathogen:

  • Block the virus’ attachment to a healthy cell or prevent it from entering the body in the first place.
  • Bind to a capsid protein. This is a type of protein where the genetic information of a pathogen is kept.
  • Prevent a pathogen from changing shape in order to sneak inside a healthy cell and replicate.

Once the B cells identify antigens, they differentiate into either memory B cells or effector B cells.

Effector B cells, also called plasma cells, are activated in response to antigen exposure. This induces these cells to synthesise and secrete antibodies specific to the antigen. Each effector B cell is complementary to an antigen, which means each effector B cell will produce a unique antibody for one type of antigen. As you can see in the figure below, when B cells are able to bind to their complementary antigens, they need a T cell to help them divide into plasma cells. Also, they do not live as long as the memory B cells.

Memory B cells help out the secondary immune response by remembering the pathogens that have invaded the body. That way, the other immune cells in the body can produce antibodies faster in the future if they invade again. These cells are considered long-term immunity and can live for a very long time: they can even survive for up to two decades.

Those vaccinated against chickenpox can have memory B cells for it for 10-20 years!

Difference between B and T cells in the immune system

There are only two types of B cells found in organisms: memory B cells and effector B cells. A difference between B and T cells is that B cells recognise antigens on the surface of pathogens and T cells recognise antigens expressed on the membrane of an infected cell.

There are four types of T cells that each perform their own task to fight off pathogens in the body. These T cells are:

  • Helper T cells activate any immune system cells needed to fight off disease.
  • Memory T cells can remember previous infections in order to help other cells produce antibodies faster.
  • Cytotoxic T cells destroy the pathogens found in the body.
  • Regulatory T cells help the body know when to stop the immune response processes.

Effector T cells are created once freshly created T cells (known as naive cells because they are not ‘assigned’ to fight off a specific pathogen) receive signals from the body to transform. Just like the effector B cells, effector T cells live for a short period of time.

Helper T cells are essential for fighting off pathogens in the body by multiplying and producing cytokines, proteins that are essentially the immune system’s messengers. Helper T cells then summon the cytotoxic T cells to the location.

The cytotoxic T cell response to virally infected cells is to kill the infected cells in the body such as cancer cells

and pathogens. They kill the infected cells by using apoptosis. Apoptosis occurs by cytotoxic T cells releasing proteins, known as perforin and granzymes, that will cause the infected cells to die.

Cancer can still occur even though cytotoxic T cells are in charge of removing it. The immune system is primarily responsible for handling individual cancer cells and finds it easy to remove them, but sometimes the cancer cells can figure out ways to stop the immune system’s destruction. They can do this by either disguising their individual cell ‘fingerprint’, which is what the immune system uses to recognise other cells in the body, or by producing molecules that are able to essentially shut down the cytotoxic T cells.

Regulatory T cells make sure helper T cells and cytotoxic T cells stop their tasks once the threats have been taken care of. Otherwise, they will harm healthy cells that are meant to be in the body.

When T cells attack our own cells, this is known as an autoimmune disease. Some examples of autoimmune diseases are Crohn’s disease, lupus, and type I diabetes.

Memory T cells are not effector cells, but they still have an important role to play in the immune system. These long-living cells are able to remember pathogens, so they will be able to fight them faster the next time they are found in the body. Memory T cells typically come from helper T cells who transform into memory T cells once the pathogen is taken care of.

Humoral Immunity - Key takeaways

  • The humoral immune response is part of the adaptive immune response and activates when antigens are found in the body.

  • B cell lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that play a role in the humoral immune response.

  • These B cells differentiate into effector B cells or memory B cells. Effector B cells produce a specific type of antibody and memory B cells remember what antibodies are needed to fight off a specific pathogen.

  • Memory B cells live longer than effector B cells. Memory B cells can live years or even a lifetime in an organism.

  • There are four types of T cells. T cells are found in the cell-mediated immune system. B cells recognise antigens on the surface of pathogens and T cells only recognise them outside the infected cell.

Humoral Immunity

The humoral immune response, also known as antibody-mediated immunity, is part of the adaptive immune system and is activated when antigens are found in the body.

They differentiate into effector B cells and memory B cells.

B cells produce antibodies and T cells use apoptosis to rid the body of pathogens.

The humoral immune response.

B lymphocytes are activated by antigens found inside the body.

Final Humoral Immunity Quiz

Question

What is the humoral immune response?

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Answer

The humoral immune response is an antibody-mediated immunity and uses B cells in order to make antibodies.

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Question

What are the two types of B cells?

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Answer

Memory and effector B cells.

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What is the difference between the two B cells?


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Answer

Memory B cells live a long time and effector B cells live a short time. Memory B cells remind the other cells how to make the antibodies and the effector B cells release antibodies.

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What are T cells?


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Answer

T cells are cells that help destroy antigens.

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What are the differences between B and T cells?


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Answer

They are made in different parts of the body, used in two different parts of the immune system, and they recognise antigens on different parts of the pathogens.

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What are the four types of T cells?


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Answer

 Helper T cells, cytotoxic T cells, memory T cells, effector T cells, and regulatory T cells

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Question

What are the two types of humoral immunity?


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Answer

Active and passive immunity

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Question

What type of cell are B lymphocytes?


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Answer

White blood cells

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Where are B cells created?


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Answer

Bone marrow

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What is the difference between active and passive immunity?


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Answer

Active is long-lasting and passive is temporary.

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Question

Each effector B cell produces their own antibody.


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Answer

True

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Memory B cells live longer than effector B cells.


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True

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Passive immunity lasts longer than active immunity.


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Answer

False

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How do B cells recognise antigens?


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Answer

They are recognised by the unique antigens on the pathogen’s surface.

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Question

Which immune system uses B cells?


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Answer

Adaptive immune system.

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