There are two main mechanisms of immunity within the adaptive immune system – humoral and cellular.
Humoral immunity is also called antibody-mediated immunity. With assistance from helper T cells, B cells will differentiate into plasma B cells that can produce antibodies against a specific antigen. The humoral immune system deals with antigens from pathogens that are freely circulating, or outside the infected cells. Antibodies produced by the B cells will bind to antigens, neutralizing them, or causing lysis (dissolution or destruction of cells by a lysin) or phagocytosis.
Cellular immunity occurs inside infected cells and is mediated by T lymphocytes. The pathogen's antigens are expressed on the cell surface or on an antigen-presenting cell. Helper T cells release cytokines that help activated T cells bind to the infected cells’ MHC-antigen complex and differentiate the T cell into a cytotoxic T cell. The infected cell then undergoes lysis.
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