Agglutinins & Agglutinogens in the Immune System

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  • 0:00 What Are Agglutinins?
  • 0:44 What Are Agglutinogens?
  • 1:18 Rejection
  • 2:27 Agglutination Uses
  • 3:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bridgett Payseur

Bridgett has a PhD in microbiology and immunology and teaches college biology.

In this lesson, we'll define agglutinins and agglutinogens and discuss their role in agglutination. We'll also discuss how doctors can use agglutination reactions to prevent rejection of organ transplants and blood transfusions.

What Are Agglutinins?

'Agglutinins and Agglutinogens' might be the name for nerdiest sitcom ever. But in actuality, these terms refer to part of your immune system. Let's start just one term at a time. Agglutinins are a specific type of antibody. An antibody is a protein that helps recognize invaders. Antibodies are made by a special type of immune cell called a B cell. They are made to help target pathogens so they can be removed from the body. Agglutinins work by causing pathogens, like bacteria, to clump together, acting as a sort of glue. Noticing the 'glu' in 'agglutinins' can help you remember this.

What Are Agglutinogens?

Now, an agglutinogen is any antigen, or foreign cell, toxin, bacteria, or anything else that gets the immune system reacting, that makes your body generate agglutinins. Noticing the 'gen' in 'agglutinogen' can help you remember the difference.

Agglutinins have multiple arms that can bind onto agglutinogens. This means one agglutinin can hold lots of invading pathogens together. Clumping the bad guys together helps soldier immune cells find them and get rid of them. This clumping process is called agglutination.

Rejection

Agglutination is important for a person to stay healthy and fight off infections. When all goes well, bacteria or other pathogens can be quickly and efficiently removed, and the body can go back to normal.

Of course, in life things don't always go right. Agglutination can occur at times when we'd rather not have it. Take for example a mother who as an Rh- blood type. This means that her blood cells do not have the Rh protein on them. This mother has a baby with an Rh+ positive blood type; that is, the baby does have the Rh protein on its blood cells. The Rh protein is foreign to the mother's immune system, and so will act as an agglutinogen, activating an agglutination response in her body. Her immune cells will attack the baby's blood. Fortunately, there is a very effective treatment to prevent this from happening using a simple injection.

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