Difference Between Specific and Nonspecific Immune Response

Main Difference – Specific vs Nonspecific Immune Response

The immune system protects the body against pathogens by triggering immune responses. The two types of immunity are innate immunity and adaptive immunity. Specific and nonspecific immune response are the two types of immune responses triggered by the immune system. The main difference between specific and nonspecific immune response is that specific immune response protects the body against specific pathogens whereas nonspecific immune response is the same for all pathogens. Specific immune responses are generated by adaptive immunity while nonspecific immune responses are generated by innate immunity. Accordingly, the specific immune response is the third line defense of the body while the nonspecific immune response is the first line and second line defenses of the body.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is a Specific Immune Response
      – Definition, Components, Function
2. What is a Nonspecific Immune Response
      – Definition, Components, Function
3. What are the Similarities Between Specific and Nonspecific Immune Response
      – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Specific and Nonspecific Immune Response
      – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Adaptive Immunity, Inflammation, Innate Immunity, Lymphocytes, Nonspecific Immune Response, Phagocytes, Physical and Chemical Barriers, Specific Immune Response

Difference Between Specific and Nonspecific Immune Response - Comparison Summary

What is a Specific Immune Response

Specific immune response refers to an immune response against a specific antigen. It is the third line defense of the body, which activates due to the failure of the innate immune system to destroy the pathogen. Though a variety of molecules and cells are involved in the specific immune response, antibodies and lymphocytes are the key elements of it. Lymphocytes possess surface receptors and secrete proteins which can specifically bind to the antigens. These secreted proteins are called antibodies. The binding of antibodies into pathogens may destroy the pathogens.

Main Difference - Specific vs Nonspecific Immune Response

Figure 1: Specific Immune Response

Cytotoxic T cells, helper T cells, and B cells are the three types of lymphocytes which help to trigger a specific immune response. These cells generate either humoral or cell-mediated immunity. The humoral immune response is mediated by B cells, producing specific antibodies to a particular pathogen. In cell-mediated immune response, the cytotoxic T cells induce the lysis of infected cells. Both B cells and T cells produce cytokines during specific immune responses. 

What is a Nonspecific Immune Response

Nonspecific immune response refers to the immediate protective response of the immune system which does not require a previous exposure to the antigen. It is the first line and the second line defense of the body. The first line defense is provided by the physical and chemical barriers, preventing the entrance of the pathogens into the body. Physical barriers include the skin, mucus layers, and the natural flora. Saliva, tears, and the stomach acids are the chemical barriers which prevent the entrance of pathogens. Second line defense is shown in figure 2.

Difference Between Specific and Nonspecific Immune Response

Figure 2: Second Line Defense

The second line defense is the nonspecific immune response, which is initiated by the entry of a pathogen into a tissue. Cells such as macrophages, natural killer cells, monocytes, neutrophils, mast cells, and dendritic cells serve as phagocytes, which destroy the pathogens inside tissues. Inflammation, fever, histamines, and complement proteins are the nonspecific immune responses of the second line defense of the body.

Similarities Between Specific and Nonspecific Immune Response

  • Both specific and nonspecific immune response are the two types of immune responses of the immune system.
  • Both specific and nonspecific immune response protects the body against pathogens.
  • White blood cells are involved in both specific and nonspecific immune response.

Difference Between Specific and Nonspecific Immune Response

Definition

Specific Immune Response: Specific immune response is the immune response against a specific antigen.

Nonspecific Immune Response: Nonspecific immune response is the immediate protective response of the immune system that does not require previous exposure to the antigen.

Belong to

Specific Immune Response: Specific immune response belongs to adaptive immunity.

Nonspecific Immune Response: Nonspecific immune response belongs to innate immunity.

Type of Defense

Specific Immune Response: Specific immune response is the third line defense of the body.

Nonspecific Immune Response: Nonspecific immune response can be either first line or second line defense of the body.

Correspondence

Specific Immune Response: Specific immune response is the supreme immune response of the body against a particular pathogen.

Nonspecific Immune Response: Nonspecific immune response is the fundamental immune response of the body against pathogens.

Components

Specific Immune Response: Humoral and cell-mediated immunity are the components of the specific immune response.

Nonspecific Immune Response: Natural flora, physical barriers, chemical barriers, phagocytes, histamine, inflammation, fever, and complement proteins are the components of the nonspecific immune response.

Cells

Specific Immune Response: Lymphocytes and antigen-presenting cells are involved in generating a specific immune response.

Nonspecific Immune Response: Phagocytes such as macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer cells, monocytes, mast cells and dendritic cells are involved in generating a nonspecific immune response.

Antibodies

Specific Immune Response: Antibodies are produced during the specific immune response.

Nonspecific Immune Response: Nonspecific immune response helps the production of antibodies.

Immunological Memory

Specific Immune Response: Specific immune response generates an immunological memory.

Nonspecific Immune Response: Nonspecific immune response does not generate an immunological memory.

Effectiveness

Specific Immune Response: Specific immune response is more effective.

Nonspecific Immune Response: Nonspecific immune response is less effective than specific immune response.

Conclusion

Specific and nonspecific immune response are two types of immune responses generated by the immune system of the body. Specific immune response belongs to the adaptive immunity while nonspecific immune response belongs to the innate immunity. Specific immune response is generated for a particular pathogen while nonspecific immune response is common for all types of pathogens. Thus, the main difference between specific and nonspecific immune response is the specificity of the immune response towards the pathogen. 

Reference:

1. BRUNO THADEUS MMASSY. “Specific immunity.” LinkedIn SlideShare, 3 July 2011, Available here.
2. Tripathi, Alok. “Non-Specific Immune Response.” LinkedIn SlideShare, 31 Aug. 2015, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Antibodies” By AaronMatthewWhite – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “2213 Inflammatory Process” By OpenStax College – Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site, Jun 19, 2013 (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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