The title really says it all. How precise or vague is the immunity we get from vaccination or from having encountered a germ before?

Is it about protein parts that are recognised if they are identical? Full proteins? Which kinds of mutations break the recognition and which don't?

  • $\begingroup$ What is your level of understanding of immunology? Your question — which is really quite broad — suggests that you may be better reading some introductory account of the topic. For example some of your terms are vague or strange. "trigger the same immune response doesn't really mean anything". If you are concerned with the utility of flu viruses, for example, against annual strains, then the phrasing would be something about antibodies recognizing the same protein. And what do you mean by "which kind of mutation?" @KarlKyer is correct, but does his answer clarify things for you. $\endgroup$ – David Oct 7 '18 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ I work in genome assembly, but I'm not a biologist. So my question is posed from a sequence point of view. A virus has a certain gene sequence, this sequence is expressed as a protein (i.e. a sequence of amino acids). Which part of this sequence is recognised by the antibodies and how precisely does it have to match, is basically my question. A mutation is just a change in the sequence. Karls answer takes me most of the way, I would say. $\endgroup$ – BlindKungFuMaster Oct 8 '18 at 9:31
  • $\begingroup$ Fine. Just wanted to check what type of answer would be appropriate. $\endgroup$ – David Oct 8 '18 at 12:27

Immunoglobulins don't recognize entire proteins, but rather,specific shapes (called epitopes). These epitopes must also be present on the surface of the invading bacteria or virus for the immunoglobulin to have access. The epitope must be exactly the same. Any change in the amino acid sequence would change the shape. But an epitope is a relatively small part of the larger protein. If the shape is the same between different proteins, it would trigger an immune response.


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