Reflections on the clonal-selection theory

Nat Rev Immunol. 2007 Oct;7(10):823-30. doi: 10.1038/nri2177.


How do we account for the immune system's ability to produce antibodies in response to new antigens? It has been 50 years since F. Macfarlane Burnet published his answer to this question: the clonal-selection theory of antibody diversity. The idea that specificity for diverse antigens exists before these antigens are encountered was a radical notion at the time, but one that became widely accepted. In this article, Nature Reviews Immunology asks six key scientists for their thoughts and opinions on the clonal-selection theory, from its first proposal to their views of it today.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Diversity / immunology
  • Antibody Formation / immunology*
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Humans
  • Immune System / immunology
  • Immune Tolerance / immunology
  • Receptors, Immunologic / immunology


  • Receptors, Immunologic