Our bodies have efficient defence systems against invading pathogens and against cancer cells. We distinguish cellular from humoral and innate from acquired systems. Humoral defences consist of antibacterial polypeptides, Pathogen-associated molecular pattern (PAMP)-receptors, complement systems, and antibodies. Antibacterial polypeptides include enzymes such as lysozyme and phospholipase A which digest bacterial cell walls and membranes, and the pore-forming defensins. PAMP-receptors recognise molecules found on certain groups of pathogens such as lipopolysaccharide in Gram-negative bacteria, lipoteichoic acid in Gram-positive bacteria or mannose-ending glycoproteins in yeasts. They opsonise pathogens for the complement system. The complement system is a cascade of proteolytic enzymes that produce anaphylactic peptides and membrane pores that lyse cells marked as foreign either by PAMP-receptors or by antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that specifically recognise foreign material and opsonise it for the complement system and for the cellular immune system. They are produced from a limited number of building blocks that are randomly recombined and subjected to hypermutation. Thus an almost infinite variety of antibodies can be produced from a limited number of genes. Acquiring specific antibodies requires about two weeks, during this time the body has to rely on innate immunity. Once an antibody response has been mounted, the immune system remembers that pathogen for the rest of our life. Artificial exposure to antigens from important pathogens (immunisation) can protect us from infections and is, after sanitation, mankind’s second most effective weapon against infectious diseases.


Human Immunodeficiency Virus Complement System Lectin Pathway Membrane Cofactor Protein Peptide Binding Site 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Engelbert Buxbaum
    • 1
  1. 1.KevelaerGermany

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