MadSci Network: Immunology

Re: What are some major parts of lymphocytes? How do they look?

Date: Tue Apr 15 17:20:14 2003
Posted By: Peter Burrows, Faculty, Microbiology
Area of science: Immunology
ID: 1046986218.Im

Lymphocytes have the same parts as most other cells in our bodies, cell 
membrane, cytoplasm and nucleus. However, lymphocytes have a very special 
feature that is important for their function. Lymphocytes are designed to 
patrol the body looking for things that are not part of the normal self. 
Some examples are bacteria, viruses, cells infected with viruses, and 
cancer cells. In order to recognize these things, the lymphocytes 
have “antigen receptors”, and each lymphocyte can recognize a different 
antigen. We have millions of lymphocytes so that our immune system can 
usually recognize these intruders and we usually win the battle. (Not 
always though, because some viruses and tumor cells are very tricky)

There are two major types of lymphocytes, B cells that can make antibody 
to stop the bacteria and viruses, and T cells that can kill virus 
infected cells or cancer cells. The antigen receptor on B cells is 
antibody, and the antigen receptor on T cells is called the T cell 
receptor. They are shown in the Figure, but the antigen receptors are 
shown much bigger than they really are compared to the size of the cell. 
Again, the important thing is that each lymphocyte can have a different 
antigen receptor so we are protected against most potential problems. 

Figures are from Immunology 5th Edition, Goldsby et al. Copyright WH 

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