Bystander Effects

Jacques Th├Ęze, Immunogenetique Cellulaire, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France

The fine specificity of effector cells and molecules for an eliciting antigen is usually considered the most important feature of an immune response. However, each immune response can in fact be viewed as being composed of two parts: 1) direct, antigen-specific interactions between cells, resulting in the specific response towards the antigen; and 2) indirect, non-antigen-specific phenomena, termed 'bystander' effects, resulting in polyclonal responses. Both aspects of the response occur simultaneously and account for the overall response, which comprises both specific and nonspecific events.

Bystander effects, as opposed to antigen-specific interactions, can therefore be defined as the result of cellular interactions occurring without antigen recognition or under conditions where antigen and receptors for antigen are not involved. However, bystander effects are described as phenomena linked to the specific immune response, in that they do not happen on their own but only in connection with a specific response. Cells that are not directly involved in the antigen-specific responses are then 'trans-stimulated' or 'carried along' in the response.

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