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An antigen is any substance that may be specifically bound by components of the immune system (antibody, lymphocytes). The term antigen arises from its ability to induce generation of antibodies (antigen = antibody generation). Despite the fact that all antigens are recognized by specific lymphocytes or by antibodies, not every antigen can evoke an immune response. Those antigens that are capable of inducing an immune response are said to be immunogenic and are called immunogens.[1]

An immunogen is any antigen that is capable of inducing humoral and/or cell-mediated immune response rather than immunological tolerance. This ability is called immunogenicity. Sometimes the term immunogen is used interchangeably with the term antigen. But only an immunogen can evoke an immune response.[2]

Generally, both are substances that are capable of generating antibodies (antigen) or immune responses (immunogen).

We can define an immunogen as a complete antigen which is composed of the macromolecular carrier and epitopes (determinants) that can induce immune response.[3]

An explicit example is a hapten. Haptens are low-molecular-weight compounds that may be bound by antibodies, but cannot elicit an immune response. Consequently the haptens themselves are nonimmunogenic and they cannot evoke an immune response until they bind with a larger carrier immunogenic molecule. The hapten-carrier complex, unlike free hapten, can act as an immunogen and can induce an immune response. [4]

Until 1959, the terms immunogen and antigen were not distinguished![5]

Used carrier proteins[edit]

It is copper-containing respiratory protein, isolated from keyhole limpets (Megathura crenulata). Because of its evolutionary distance from mammals, high molecular weight and complex structure it is usually immunogenic in vertebrate animals.[6]
(also Blue Carrier Immunogenic Protein) It is alternative to KLH isolated from Concholepas concholepas.It has the similar immunogenic properties as KLH but better solubility and therefore better flexibility.[7]
It is from the blood sera of cows and has similarly immunogenic properties as KLH or CCH. The cationized form of BSA (cBSA) is highly positively charged protein with significantly increased immunogenicity. This change possesses a greater number of possible conjugated antigens to the protein.[8]
Also known as egg albumin, the main protein (60-75% ) found in hen egg white. OVA is being soluble in Dimethyl Sulfoxide (DMSO) what enable conjugation of haptens that are not soluble in aqueous buffers. Immune response can be enhanced by using an ajuvant injected together with the immunogen.[9]

Immunological adjuvants[edit]

An adjuvant (from Latin adiuvare – to help) is any substance, distinct from antigen, which enhances immune response by various mechanisms: by recruiting of professional Antigen-Presenting Cells (APCs) to the site of antigen exposure, by increasing the delivery of antigens by its delayed/slow release (depot generation), immunomudulation by cytokine production (selection of Th1 or Th2 response), by induction of T-cell response (prolonged exposure of peptide-MHC complexes (signal 1) and stimulation of expression of T-cell-activating co-stimulators (signal 2)on the APC’s surface) or by targeting (Carbohydrate adjuvants which target lectin receptors on APCs). Adjuvants are commonly used as additive to improve vaccine efficiency from the 1920s. Generally administration of adjuvants is currently used in experimentally immunology and clinical vaccines to assure a high quality/quantity, memory-enhanced antibody response. Where antigens must be prepare and delivered in form and manner that maximazes production of specific immune response. Among commonly used adjuvants belong Complete and Incomplete Freund's adjuvant and solutions of aluminum hydroxide or aluminum phosphate.[10][11]


  1. ^ Murphy K. (2012). Janeway’s Immunobiology 8th edition. Garland Science. pp. 717–721, 789. 
  2. ^ Cruse J.M., Lewis R.E. (2010). Atlas Of Immunology. CRC Press. p. 167. 
  3. ^ Cruse J.M., Lewis R.E. (2010). Atlas Of Immunology. CRC Press. p. 163. 
  4. ^ Abbas A.K., Lichtman A.H., Pillai S. (2012). Cellular and Molecular Immunology. 7th edition. Elsevier, Ed. Gruliow R. pp. 101–103, 483. 
  5. ^ Medical Dictionary, Merriam-Webster. "Immunogen". 
  6. ^ Harris J.R., Markl J. (1999). "Keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KHL): a biomedical review". Micron 30 (6): 597–623. doi:10.1016/s0968-4328(99)00036-0. 
  7. ^ Arancibia S., Del Campo M., Nova E., Salazar F., Becker M.I. (2012). "Enhanced structural stability of Concholepashemocyanin increases its immunogenicity and maintains its non-specific immunostimulatory effects". Eur J Immunol 42 (3): 688–99. doi:10.1002/eji.201142011. 
  8. ^ Chen J.S., Chen A., Chang L.Ch., Chang W.S.W., Lee H.S., Lin S.H., Lin Y.F. (2004). "Mouse model of membranous nephopathy induced by cationic bovine serum albumin: antigen dose response relation and strain differences". Nephrol Dial Transplantant 19: 2721–2728. 
  9. ^ De Silva B.S., Egodage K.L., Wilson G.S. (1999). "Purified protein derivate (PPD) as an immunogen carrier elicits high antigen specificity to haptens". Bioconjug Chem 10 (3): 496–501. doi:10.1021/bc9800724. 
  10. ^ Abbas A.K., Lichtman A.H., Pillai S. (2012). Cellular and Molecular Immunology. Elsevier. p. 85. 
  11. ^ Cox J.C., Coulter A.R. (1997). "Adjuvants –a classification and review of their modes of action". Vaccine 15 (3): 248–256. doi:10.1016/s0264-410x(96)00183-1.