Zone of equivalence (large complexes)

Zone of antigen excess (small complexes)

with a meta-substituted sulfonate group would bind strongly to this hapten but weakly or not at all to ortho-or para-substituted isomers. These antigens are structurally similar and differ only in the location of the sulfonate group on the benzene ring.

The fine specificity of antibodies applies to the recognition of all classes of molecules. For example, antibodies can distinguish between two linear protein determinants differing by only a single conservative amino acid substitution that has little effect on secondary structure. Because the biochemical constituents of all living organisms are fundamentally similar, this high degree of specificity is necessary so that antibodies generated in response to the antigens of one microbe usually do not react with structurally similar self molecules or with the antigens of other microbes. However, some antibodies produced against one antigen may bind to a different but structurally related antigen. This is referred to as a cross-reaction. Antibodies that are produced in response to a microbial antigen sometimes cross-react with self antigens, and this may be the basis of certain immunologic diseases (see Chapter 18).

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