What Is an Autoantibody?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The critical function of the immune system is to discriminate self from nonself. Tolerance against self-antigens is a highly regulated process and, in order to maintain it, the immune system must be able to distinguish self-reactive lymphocytes as they develop. The presence of autoantibodies is the consequence of breakdown of tolerance and, although they are an important serologic feature of autoimmune diseases, their presence is not exclusive of these conditions. Antibodies against self-antigens are also found in cancer, during massive tissue damage and even in healthy subjects. Natural autoantibodies provide immediate protection against infection and also prevent inflammation by facilitating the clearance of oxidized lipids, oxidized proteins, and apoptotic cells; their role in development of autoimmunity is still unclear. Detection of serum autoantibodies in clinical practice has become more available to clinicians worldwide while providing a powerful diagnostic tool. The recognition that self-reactivity may not be synonymous of disease is an important concept and a challenge in the everyday life of the clinical immunologist.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAutoantibodies: Third Edition
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9780444563781
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • Antigens
  • Autoimmune disease
  • B cell
  • Epitopes
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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