Molecular Mimicry in the Pathogenicity of Microorganisms

  • Michael M. Frank
Conference paper


In 1964 Damián coined the term “molecular mimicry.” (Damián, 1989) He used this term to refer to sharing of antigenically cross reactive groupings on microorganisms with those on host cells and other tissue elements. He pointed out that such mimicry might lead to a series of consequences. 1) The development of autoimmunity. An immune response directed at a microbial antigen that cross reacts with host antigens might lead to host tissue damage. 2) Failure to recognize and eliminate a microbial pathogen. In this case, tolerance to ones own antigens would preclude an adequate immune response directed at similar microbial antigens. 3) Pressure within the host species to generate polymorphic antigens and to select those that do not cross react with microbial antigens. The first experiments were performed with polyclonal antimicrobial antisera. With the advent of monoclonal antibodies it became possible to perform epitope mapping, carefully detailing areas of antigenic similarity between host and microbe. The revolution in molecular biology made it possible to compare the sequence of these antigenically, functionally cross reacting antigens and to determine whether the similarity between host and microbe extends to the genetic level.


Herpes Simplex Virus Type Molecular Mimicry Microbial Antigen Adequate Immune Response Host Tissue Damage 
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-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael M. Frank
    • 1
  1. 1.Duke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA

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