Molecular Mimicry

Alan Ebringer, Infection and Immunity Group, Division of Life Sciences, King's College, London, UK

Copyright © 1998 Elsevier Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The term 'molecular mimicry' was introduced in 1964, by Damian, to describe antigen sharing between parasite and host, as a way for the parasite to avoid destruction by the immune processes of the host. In the 1980s and 1990s, the term has acquired a more specific significance, in that it refers to antigens shared between an immunocompetent host and an external agent, and this leads in some cases to pathological consequences whereby antibodies produced against the external agent will bind to the self antigens of the host and cause inflammatory damage. Rheumatic fever, ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis are three diseases that could be considered to provide good examples of this type of molecular mimicry.

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