Immune Tolerance and the Nervous System

  • David E. Anderson
  • David A. Hafler
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 490)


The immune system exists to protect the body from infection by a plethora of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. This is accomplished by a variety of interdependent methods. The skin is an often overlooked but extremely effective barrier to infection, and is one of several innate mechanisms of immunity. NK cells, which appear to primarily recognize changes in the levels of major histocompatability complex class I (MHC cl) molecules expressed on cells within the body, represent another form of innate immunity. They represent a form of innate immunity because while they can protect the body against tumor cells or virally-infected cells, which often have altered levels of MHC cI expression, they have no “memory” of a given prior viral infection or particular type of tumor. This contrasts with T cells and B cells which comprise the specific immune response. A given T cell or B cell and its clonal progeny are all specific for a given foreign microbial antigen, and furthermore, can “remember” a prior encounter with that antigen and effectively remove it much more quickly upon secondary exposure to the antigen. This phenomena is the basis for vaccination. Thus, after vaccination with exposure to antigens from a particular virus or bacterium with adjuvant, there is activation and expansion of T cells and B cells with specific receptors for those particular antigens. If some years later the same individual is exposed to the infectious virus or bacteria, the T cells and B cells which have been previously activated and expanded will be mobilized very quickly and in most cases eliminate the infectious agent before it can do any harm to the body.


Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis Myelin Basic Protein Negative Selection Experimental Allergic Encephalomyelitis Cell Tolerance 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • David E. Anderson
    • 1
  • David A. Hafler
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolHarvard Institutes of MedicineBostonUSA

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