The innate immune system provides an immediate, nonspecific first line of defense against pathogens. It operates based on inherited cellular receptors that respond to broad pathogen-related patterns and common threat signals. The innate immune system develops in utero and, unlike the adaptive (acquired) immune system, does not require imprinting or adaptation to specific antigens nor does it provide permanent pathogen-specific immunity. For this reason, it is also referred to as “nonspecific immunity.” Response to pathogens is rapid, occurring within minutes to hours of exposure. The innate immune system comprises physical, chemical, and biological barriers (e.g., the skin, gastric acid, ) and both cellular (e.g., granulocytes, natural killer cells, mast cells) and humoral (complement system) defense mechanisms.
- The innate immune system comprises the following defense mechanisms:
- Develops in utero: does not require imprinting or adaptation to specific antigens
- Response to pathogens is rapid but nonspecific
- Natural killer cells
- Mast cells
- Antigen-presenting cells (APCs)
Coughing and sneezing (reflex)
- Irritation of receptors in nose, sinuses, and lower and upper airways triggers coughing and/or sneezing.
- Protective mechanisms that serve to remove irritants (e.g., dust) and pathogens through expulsion of air and mucus from the lungs and nasal cavity
Intact skin and mucous membranes (e.g., respiratory tract, genitourinary system, digestive tract)
- Tight junctions between epithelial cells
- Ciliary function of ciliated epithelium in the respiratory tract
- Symbiosis with microorganisms: imbalances can lead to various diseases (e.g., oral thrush, bacterial vaginosis, pseudomembranous colitis)
Production of mucus and body secretions
Mucus and body secretions contain nonspecific and specific protective substances against infections.
- Lysozyme: enzyme formed from neutrophils, granulocytes, and macrophages that can lyse bonds in peptidoglycans (e.g., cell walls of certain, especially gram‑positive, bacteria)
- Acid hydrolases
- Peptides: defensins
- Acids: gastric acid and vaginal flora with acidic pH
Exocytosis of cytotoxic molecules and proteins
- Major basic protein: a protein secreted by eosinophils that is involved in host defense (especially against parasites)
- Toxic products of respiratory burst
Innate vs. adaptive immunity
|Key features of innate and adaptive immune systems|
|Innate immune system||Adaptive immune system|
|Genetics|| || |
|Inheritance|| || |
|Response time|| || |
|Specificity|| || |
|Memory response|| |
- The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) is a gene complex that encodes the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins.
- MHC proteins play a vital role in initiating immune responses as they present antigen fragments to T cells and bind T-cell receptors.
- During their maturation process in the thymus gland, T cells (T lymphocytes) that recognize self-derived peptides (including peptides derived from self-MHC molecules) are selected and undergo apoptosis to prevent autoimmunity.
|Overview of MHC molecules|
|MHC class I (MHC I)||MHC class II (MHC II)|
|Loci|| || |
|Structure|| || |
|Antigen presentation|| |
|Associated diseases|| |
MHC I-associated loci (HLA-A/-B/-C) only have 1 letter after the hyphen, while MHC II-associated loci (HLA‑DR/‑DP/‑DQ) have 2 letters.
HLA A3: Fe3+ is increased in HE3mochromatosis.
HLA B8: If you go fishing for HLA, use MAGgots (Myasthenia gravis, Addison disease, Graves disease) for b8 (bait).
HLA B27: They are Both 27 and a PAIR (Psoriatic arthritis, Ankylosing spondylitis, IBD-associated arthritis, Reactive arthritis).
HLA C: Psoriasis is a Cutaneous Condition.
HLA DQ2/DQ8: I 8 2 (ate too) much gluten at Dairy Queen.
HLA DR2: At DooR 2, they sell multiple good hay products (SLE, Multiple sclerosis, Goodpasture syndrome, hay fever).
HLA DR2/DR3: 2, 3, S-L-E.
HLA DR3/DR4: 3,4 – sugar no more (DM type 1).
HLA DR4: 4 walls make 1 “rheum” (room).
HLA DR3/DR5: DR. Hashimoto is odd (odd numbers: 3, 5).
Pattern recognition receptors (PRRs)
- Definition: receptors on the surface of cells of the innate immune system that recognize pathogen-related molecules and activate an immune response
- Pathogen-associated molecular patterns: a group of molecules expressed by pathogens that are recognized by PRRs as foreign to the host
- Damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs): endogenous molecules that are released from damaged host cells and trigger a noninfectious inflammatory response
Types of PRRs
- Toll-like receptors (TLRs): pattern recognition receptors that bind to pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) and activate the NF-κB pathway
Nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-like receptors (NLRs): a family of intracellular PRR that can recognize both pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) and damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs)
- Play a crucial role in innate immune signaling: activation of NOD-like receptors → upregulation of NF-κB → ↑ transcription of proinflammatory cytokines (e.g., IL-1β, IL-18).
- Defects in NOD2 receptor activity alter NF-κB activity, leading to a dysfunctional innate immune response and have been linked to Crohn disease, sarcoidosis, and graft-versus-host disease.
Respiratory burst (oxidative burst)
- NADPH oxidase complex
- Superoxide dismutase: generates hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) from •O2–
- Myeloperoxidase: an enzyme in neutrophil granulocytes
- Release of oxidative burst causes K+ influx, which triggers secretion of lysosomal enzymes into the phagosome.
- Respiratory burst is a vital component of intact immune response
- Impaired respiratory burst leads to an elevated risk of infection with catalase-positive pathogens (e.g., Aspergillus, S. aureus).
- P. aeruginosa uses pyocyanin to form ROS and eliminate competing organisms.
H2O2 into H2O and O2 and prevent the formation of hydroxyl-halide radicals. can degrade
- Vasodilation and increasing vascular permeability → ↑ blood flow
- Activation, proliferation, and attraction (chemotaxis) of immune cells
- Set of biomarkers whose plasma concentration increases (positive markers, e.g., CRP) or decreases (negative markers, e.g., transferrin) in response to an ongoing inflammatory process.
- See “.”
- Group of plasma proteins (e.g., C1, C2, C3)
- Synthesized in the liver as inactive precursors
- Activation (e.g., via immunoglobulins, enzymes) triggers an amplifying cascade of reactions that leads to inflammation, activation of membrane attack complex (MAC), and enhanced phagocytosis of pathogens and foreign material.
- Activated by IgM or IgG complexes binding to the pathogen
- C1q, C1r, and C1s activation → C1 complex → split of C4 into C4a and C4b and C2 into C2a and C2b → formation of C3 convertase (C4b2b) from C4b and C2b
- Activation of this pathway can be assessed via the total complement activity test (also called CH50 test).
- Alternative pathway
- Lectin pathway
Common end phase
- C3-convertase (C4b2b or C3bBb) cleaves complement component 3 (C3) to factor C3a (chemotaxin) → creation of C5-convertase (C4b2b3b or C3b2Bb), which can cleave factor C5.
- C5a acts as anaphylatoxin, while C5b binds factors C6–9 to form the membrane attack complex (MAC), which induces the lysis of the target cell.
- Anaphylatoxins are fragments of complement proteins (e.g., C3a, C4a, C5A) that cause proinflammatory responses; (e.g., cytokine release, neutrophil and macrophage activation, platelet activation).
IgG and IgM activate the classic pathway: General Motors (GM) makes classic cars.
- Increases the susceptibility of target particles (e.g., bacteria) to phagocytosis
- Attachment of opsonins (e.g., immunoglobulins) causes structural changes that facilitate interaction with immune cells.
- C3b and IgG are the two main opsonins for bacteria
- C3b is also involved in eliminating immune complexes.
- Membrane attack complex (MAC)
- Anaphylaxis: activation of mast cells and granulocytes via C3a/C4a/C5a
- Chemotaxis: attraction of neutrophils via C5a
C3b binds to bacteria.
C3a, C4a, C5a lead to mast-cell activation and anaphylaxis.
Defects of innate immunity
|Overview of innate immune defects |
|Defective element/complement||Associated conditions|| |
Increased susceptibility to