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The Production of Antibodies

Nature volume 149, pages 562563 (23 May 1942) | Download Citation



THE introduction of complex foreign substances of high molecular weight into the tissues of warm-blooded animals often leads to the appearance of antibodies in the blood serum. The reaction of these antibodies with the substance that stimulated their appearance—the antigen—is largely specific. Immunologists have in the main confined their attention to the specificity of combination between antigen and corresponding antibody. Analysis of natural antigens and the artificial modification of protein antigens by the addition of active chemical groups to the surface of the molecule have both proved fruitful in revealing what particular configurations in the antigenic particle determine its power to induce and to combine with specific antibody. Much less is known about the origin and structure of antibodies themselves. A single injection of antigen sometimes yields a detectable amount of antibody, but its most striking effect is to sensitize the animal in such a way that a subsequent injection induces a rapid and disproportionately large output of antibody. Upon the readiness of this 'secondary response' depends the persistence of immunity in man and animals ; though all detectable protective antibody has disappeared, the antibody response of the conditioned animal to later contact with antigen is immediate and effective.

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