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The conservative physiology of the immune system

Author(s): Vaz N.M. | Faria A.M.C. de | Verdolin B.A. | Silva Neto A.F. | Menezes J.S. | Carvalho C.R.

Journal: Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research
ISSN 0100-879X

Volume: 36;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 13;
Date: 2003;
Original page

Keywords: Immunobiology | Immune system | Closure | Network | Autopoiesis | Panama blot

Current immunological opinion disdains the necessity to define global interconnections between lymphocytes and regards natural autoantibodies and autoreactive T cells as intrinsically pathogenic. Immunological theories address the recognition of foreignness by independent clones of lymphocytes, not the relations among lymphocytes or between lymphocytes and the organism. However, although extremely variable in cellular/molecular composition, the immune system preserves as invariant a set of essential relations among its components and constantly enacts contacts with the organism of which it is a component. These invariant relations are reflected, for example, in the life-long stability of profiles of reactivity of immunoglobulins formed by normal organisms (natural antibodies). Oral contacts with dietary proteins and the intestinal microbiota also result in steady states that lack the progressive quality of secondary-type reactivity. Autoreactivity (natural autoantibody and autoreactive T cell formation) is also stable and lacks the progressive quality of clonal expansion. Specific immune responses, currently regarded as the fundament of the operation of the immune system, may actually result from transient interruptions in this stable connectivity among lymphocytes. More permanent deficits in interconnectivity result in oligoclonal expansions of T lymphocytes, as seen in Omenn's syndrome and in the experimental transplantation of a suboptimal diversity of syngeneic T cells to immunodeficient hosts, which also have pathogenic consequences. Contrary to theories that forbid autoreactivity as potentially pathogenic, the physiology of the immune system is conservative and autoreactive. Pathology derives from failures of these conservative mechanisms.
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