Antigen

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A proteinaceous substance which causes an allergic reaction.

In summary an antigen is a molecule that binds to Ag-specific receptors, but cannot necessarily induce an immune response in the body by itself. Antigens are usually peptides, polysaccharides or lipids. In general, molecules other than peptides (saccharides and lipids) qualify as antigens but not as immunogens since they cannot elicit an immune response on their own. Furthermore, for a peptide to induce an immune response (activation of T-cells by antigen-presenting cells) it must be a large enough size, since peptides too small will also not elicit an immune response. The term antigen originally described a structural molecule that binds specifically to an antibody. It expanded to refer to any molecule or a linear molecular fragment that can be recognized by highly variable antigen receptors (B-cell receptor or T-cell receptor) of the adaptive immune system.