Structure and function of the immune system

Toxicol Pathol. 1987;15(3):262-4. doi: 10.1177/019262338701500301.


The major function of the immune system is to protect the host from environmental agents such as microbes or chemicals, thereby preserving the integrity of the body. This is done by the recognition of self and response to non-self. The immune response has been artificially divided into innate immunity (resistance) and specific immunity. Specific immunity is further divided into humoral immunity, the one involved with antibody, and cellular immunity, which is orchestrated by T cells. It is essential to understand that although these divisions have helped in understanding and analyzing the immune response, the system functions as a single unit rather than as a separate entity. In this paper, a simplified analysis of specific immunity will be given. However, the importance of nonspecific immunity, especially as it pertains to its role in preventing exposure of environmental substances, should not be forgotten.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lymphocytes / physiology