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Idiotype Network

  1. Ulrich Behn

Published Online: 15 APR 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0000954.pub2



How to Cite

Behn, U. 2011. Idiotype Network. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2011


B-lymphocytes have receptors, antibodies, with highly specific binding sites which bind to complementary structures. Receptors of a given cell have exactly one specific set of binding sites, the idiotype. Complementary structures can be found not only on antigen but also on antibodies of different idiotype or on T-cell receptors. Thus a network of idiotypically interacting immune cells is formed, the idiotype network. The network influences the shaping of the B- and T-cell repertoirs and may be relevant in the control of autoreactive clones. The therapeutic use of monoclonal antibodies against autoimmune diseases, cancer (in particular lymphoma) and a few other diseases relies on idiotypic interactions and is of rapidly growing importance. This strongly motivates further research to understand the systemic consequences of immunomanipulation.

Key Concepts:

  • An idiotope is a site on a B-cell receptor that can bind to complementary structures; also on T-cell receptors such sites exist.

  • The collection of idiotopes on one receptor is called idiotype; all receptors of a given cell have the same specific idiotype.

  • A huge diversity of idiotypes is generated by random somatic rearrangements of genes.

  • B-cells of a given idiotype are stimulated to proliferate if its receptors are cross-linked by complementary structures; unstimulated cells die.

  • Structures that bind to idiotopes can be found on antigen, not only on B or T cells of anti-idiotype, but also on other cells or signalling molecules.

  • Immune cells, functionally connected by idiotypic interactions, form the idiotype network which influences the shaping of the B- and T-cell repertoir and may be relevant in the control of autoreactive clones.

  • Therapeutic strategies using monoclonal antibodies rely on idiotypic interactions.

  • New technologies make extensive studies of the repertoir of immune receptors feasable, which are necessary to better understand the network properties and systemic consequences of immunomanipulation.

  • In many different fields the network paradigm has proved successful in describing complex systems, the recent progress in theoretical understanding should inspire further research on idiotype networks.


  • idiotype;
  • antibodies;
  • antigens;
  • B-lymphocytes;
  • T-lymphocytes;
  • autoimmunity;
  • immunological memory;
  • molecular mimicry;
  • vaccination;
  • network paradigm