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The Immune System

Defense against Infectious Diseases

Learning Outcomes
• 6.3.1 Define pathogen.
• 6.3.3 Outline the role of skin and mucous
membranes in defence against pathogens
• 6.3.4 Outline how phagocytic leucocytes ingest
pathogens in the blood and in body tissues.
• 6.3.5 Distinguish between antigens and
• 6.3.6/11.1.4 Explain antibody production
• 11.1 Describe the process of blood clotting

The Immune System and the Lord of
the Rings
• In this presentation, the immune response will
be compared to events in Return of the King…

The Invading Armies
• A pathogen is a disease-causing microorganism, virus or prion.

First Line of Defense
• The first line of defense against pathogens are
the barriers that prevent the entry of
pathogenic substances

• Minas Tirith
has large city
walls and
that fire
artillery at the
army to
prevent them
from entering
the city

In your body…
• The skin and mucous membranes prevent
pathogens from entering your body.
• Skin – dry, thick and tough region made of
predominantly dead surface cells. Contains
biochemical defense agents (sebaceous glands
secrete chemicals which inhibit the growth of
some bacteria). Skin also releases acidic
secretions to lower pH and prevent bacterial

In your body…
• Mucous membranes – protect internal structures
(externally accessible cavities and tubes such as
the trachea, vagina and urethra)
• Thin region covering living surface cells that
release fluids to wash away pathogens (e.g.
mucous, tears, saliva, etc.)
• Contains biochemical defense agents
• Mucous membranes may be ciliated to aid in
removal of pathogens (along with physical actions
like coughing or sneezing)

If the wall is breached…

The body fixes the wound…

If an invading army enters…
• The first
defenders are
the foot
soldiers. They
are a general
response to the
threat without
any specific

In the body…
• The second line of defense against pathogenic
invasion are the non-specific defense
• These do not differentiate between types of
microorganisms and always invoke the same
• The non-specific defense mechanisms include
phagocytic leucocytes, inflammation, fever
and anti-microbial proteins.

• Phagocytic leucocytes (macrophages) circulate in the blood
but may move into body tissue
• They concentrate at sites of infection due to the release of
chemicals (such as histamine) from damaged cells.
• Pathogens are engulfed when cellular extensions surround
the pathogen and sequester it in an internal vesicle.
• This vesicle may then fuse with the lysosome to digest the
• Some of the pathogen’s fragments may be presented on
the surface of the macrophage to stimulate antibody

How are invaders recognized?
• The body recognizes invaders because they do
not possess the molecular markers that
designate all body cells as “self” (MHC Class I)
• After digesting the pathogen, macrophages
present foreign antigens to lymphocytes as
examples of “non-self” (on MHC Class II)
• These lymphocytes can then respond with the
production of antibodies to destroy the
foreign invaders.

Third Line of Defense
• Specific defenses, coordinated by a type of
leucocyte called a lymphocyte. These can
recognize and respond specifically to different
types of micro-organism and have memory
(can respond more effectively upon

Third Line of Defense

Third Line of Defense
• Lymphocytes make antibodies (specific
weapons) against antigens.
• Antigen – a substance that the body
recognizes as foreign and that can evoke an
immune response.
• Antibody - a protein produced by certain
white blood cells (B lymphocytes, plasma
cells) in response to an antigen.

• Antibodies are made up of 4 polypeptide chains
(2 light and 2 heavy chains) joined together by
disulphide bonds into a Y-shaped molecule.
• The ends of the arms are where the antigens bind
and these areas are called the variable regions, as
these will differ between antibodies.
• Each type of antibody will recognize a unique
antigenic fragment, making this interaction
specific (like an enzyme-substrate interaction)

General Antibody Structure

Antibody production
• B lymphocytes (B cells) are antibodyproducing cells that develop in the bone
marrow to produce a specific antibody for an
• When macrophages encounter a pathogen,
they digest it and present the antigen
fragments on their surface to helper T
lymphocytes (helper T cells)

Antibody production
• These cells activate the appropriate B cell which
divides and differentiates into short-lived plasma
cells that produce large quantities of antibody
(about 2000 molecules per second for 4-5 days)
• Because pathogens may contain several antigens,
several B cell clones may become activated
(polyclonal activation)
• A small proportion of B cell clones develop into
memory cells, which may survive for years and
provide long-term immunity.

Memory cells and Immunity
• Because the final stage of the immune response depends
on B cell clones making sufficiently large numbers of
antibodies, there is a delay between initial exposure and
the production of antibodies.
• Memory cells can remain in the body for years (or even a
lifetime). If a second infection with the same antigen
occurs, the memory cells react faster and more vigorously
than the initial immune response, such that the symptoms
of the infection do not normally appear.
• Because the individual no longer presents with symptoms
of infection, the individual is said to be immune.