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B cells

B cells    are immune cells that function primarily by producing antibodies. An antibody    is any of the group of proteins that binds specifically to pathogen-associated molecules known as antigens. An antigen    is a chemical structure on the surface of a pathogen that binds to T or B lymphocyte antigen receptors. Once activated by binding to antigen, B cells differentiate into cells that secrete a soluble form of their surface antibodies. These activated B cells are known as plasma cells.

T cells

The T cell    , on the other hand, does not secrete antibody but performs a variety of functions in the adaptive immune response. Different T cell types have the ability to either secrete soluble factors that communicate with other cells of the adaptive immune response or destroy cells infected with intracellular pathogens. The roles of T and B lymphocytes in the adaptive immune response will be discussed further in this chapter.

Plasma cells

Another type of lymphocyte of importance is the plasma cell. A plasma cell    is a B cell that has differentiated in response to antigen binding, and has thereby gained the ability to secrete soluble antibodies. These cells differ in morphology from standard B and T cells in that they contain a large amount of cytoplasm packed with the protein-synthesizing machinery known as rough endoplasmic reticulum.

Natural killer cells

A fourth important lymphocyte is the natural killer cell, a participant in the innate immune response. A natural killer cell (NK)    is a circulating blood cell that contains cytotoxic (cell-killing) granules in its extensive cytoplasm. It shares this mechanism with the cytotoxic T cells of the adaptive immune response. NK cells are among the body’s first lines of defense against viruses and certain types of cancer.

Type of lymphocyte Primary function
B lymphocyte Generates diverse antibodies
T lymphocyte Secretes chemical messengers
Plasma cell Secretes antibodies
NK cell Destroys virally infected cells

Visit this website to learn about the many different cell types in the immune system and their very specialized jobs. What is the role of the dendritic cell in an HIV infection?

Primary lymphoid organs and lymphocyte development

Understanding the differentiation and development of B and T cells is critical to the understanding of the adaptive immune response. It is through this process that the body (ideally) learns to destroy only pathogens and leaves the body’s own cells relatively intact. The primary lymphoid organs are the bone marrow and thymus gland. The lymphoid organs are where lymphocytes mature, proliferate, and are selected, which enables them to attack pathogens without harming the cells of the body.

Bone marrow

In the embryo, blood cells are made in the yolk sac. As development proceeds, this function is taken over by the spleen, lymph nodes, and liver. Later, the bone marrow takes over most hematopoietic functions, although the final stages of the differentiation of some cells may take place in other organs. The red bone marrow    is a loose collection of cells where hematopoiesis occurs, and the yellow bone marrow is a site of energy storage, which consists largely of fat cells ( [link] ). The B cell undergoes nearly all of its development in the red bone marrow, whereas the immature T cell, called a thymocyte    , leaves the bone marrow and matures largely in the thymus gland.

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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