Epitope Mapping Protocols pp 3-20
What Is a B-Cell Epitope?
The antigenicity of proteins resides in different types of antigenic determinants known as continuous and discontinuous epitopes, cryptotopes, neotopes, and mimotopes. All epitopes have fuzzy boundaries and can be identified only by their ability to bind to certain antibodies. Antigenic cross-reactivity is a common phenomenon because antibodies are always able to recognize a considerable number of related epitopes. This places severe limits to the specificity of antibodies. Antigenicity, which is the ability of an epitope to react with an antibody, must be distinguished from its immunogenicity or ability to induce antibodies in a competent vertebrate host. Failure to make this distinction partly explains why no successful peptide-based vaccines have yet been developed. Methods for predicting the epitopes of proteins are discussed and the reasons for the low success rate of epitope prediction are analyzed.