Antigen dependent and independent mechanisms that sustain serum antibody levels

Vaccine. 2003 Jun 1;21 Suppl 2:S35-7. doi: 10.1016/s0264-410x(03)00198-1.


In this article, we review three mechanisms that contribute to sustaining serum antibody levels: (i) long-lived plasma cells; (ii) persisting or cross-reactive antigen, and (iii) polyclonal activation of all memory B cells. We also present a quantitative analysis of the secondary immune response that reveals the relative contribution of antigen induced short- and long-lived plasma cells versus polyclonal activation of all memory B cells. Antigenic boost sustains high levels of serum antibodies only for a few months, while polyclonal activation sustains low levels of protective antibodies for a human lifetime.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / blood*
  • Antigens / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Plasma Cells / physiology


  • Antibodies
  • Antigens