The phenomenon of immense variability characteristic of antibodies. It enables the immune system to react specifically against the essentially unlimited kinds of antigens it encounters. Antibody diversity is accounted for by three main theories: (1) the Germ Line Theory, which holds that each antibody-producing cell has genes coding for all possible antibody specificities, but expresses only the one stimulated by antigen; (2) the Somatic Mutation Theory, which holds that antibody-producing cells contain only a few genes, which produce antibody diversity by mutation; and (3) the Gene Rearrangement Theory, which holds that antibody diversity is generated by the rearrangement of immunoglobulin variable region gene segments during the differentiation of the antibody-producing cells.
- germ line theory
- immunoglobulin diversity
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