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Humoral immunity (also called the antibody-mediated system) is the aspect of immunity that is mediated by macromolecules (as opposed to cell-mediated immunity) found in extracellular fluids such as secreted antibodies, complement proteins and certain antimicrobial peptides. Humoral immunity is so named because it involves substances found in the humours, or body fluids. The study of the molecular and cellular components that comprise the immune system, including their function and interaction, is the central science of immunology. The immune system is divided into a more primitive innate immune system, and acquired or adaptive immune system of vertebrates, each of which contains humoral and cellular components. Humoral immunity refers to antibody production and the accessory processes that accompany it, including: Th2 activation and cytokine production, germinal center formation andisotype switching, affinity maturation and memory cell generation. It also refers to the effector functions of antibody, which include pathogen and toxin neutralization, classicalcomplement activation, and opsonin promotion of phagocytosis and pathogen elimination.
The concept of humoral immunity developed based on analysis of antibacterial activity of the components of serum. Hans Buchner is credited with the development of the humoral theory. In 1890 he described alexins, or “protective substances”, which exist in the serum and other bodily fluid and are capable of killing microorganisms. Alexins, later redefined "complement" by Paul Ehrlich, were shown to be the soluble components of the innate response that lead to a combination of cellular and humoral immunity, and bridged the features of innate and acquired immunity. Following the 1888 discovery of diphtheria and tetanus, Emil von Behring and Kitasato Shibasaburō showed that disease need not be caused by microorganisms themselves. They...
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