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Mol Immunol. 2005 Mar;42(5):651-5.

Degeneracy, mimicry and crossreactivity in immune recognition.

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Conceptual Immunology Group, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 10010 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Degeneracy of recognition of antigen by the immune system is being used as an argument that the self-nonself discrimination cannot be a property of the specificity of its antigen-receptors, TCR and BCR, but must rely on emergent properties derived from a set of complex interactions and pathways. This essay analyzes an alternative view by showing that degeneracy and specificity are not mutually exclusive properties. The self-nonself discrimination is the sole evolutionary selection pressure for the specificity of the TCR and BCR, which can be quantitated as a "Specificity Index." Degeneracy is a non-issue for the self-nonself discrimination largely because it is a problem of chemistry, not of biology.

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