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14: Cell-Mediated Immunity

Cell-mediated immunity (CMI) is an immune response that does not involve antibodies but rather involves the activation of macrophages and NK-cells, the production of antigen-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes, and the release of various cytokines in response to an antigen. Cellular immunity protects the body by:

  • Activating antigen-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTLs) that are able to lyse body cells displaying epitopes of foreign antigen on their surface, such as virus-infected cells, cells with intracellular bacteria, and cancer cells displaying tumor antigens;
  • Activating macrophages and NK cells, enabling them to destroy intracellular pathogens; and
  • Stimulating cells to secrete a variety of cytokines that influence the function of other cells involved in adaptive immune responses and innate immune responses.

Cell-mediated immunity is directed primarily microbes that survive in phagocytes and microbes that infect non-phagocytic cells. It is most effective in destroying virus-infected cells, intracellular bacteria, and cancers. It also plays a major role in delayed transplant rejection.

Contributors

  • Dr. Gary Kaiser (COMMUNITY COLLEGE OF BALTIMORE COUNTY, CATONSVILLE CAMPUS)