I have been asked whether hormones are antigenic.

I would have to think that the answer is no because they are used as various drugs such as FSH in infertility treatments without the need of immunosupressants.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology.SE! Please take the tour and then go through the help pages starting with How to Ask questions effectively on this site and edit your question accordingly. In particular, you would benefit from reading up about antigens. ——— In general, we encourage you to do some research on your own and then, informed by what you have learned, ask any questions you still have (ideally with references to reliable sources). Thanks! 😊 $\endgroup$
    – tyersome
    Jan 19 '20 at 17:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Where did your question come from? Are you sure you are quoting it correctly? Both testosterone and insulin are hormones, but they are very different in size, which influences their antigenicity. And my phrasing of the last sentence was deliberate, we don’t talk about molecules having antigens, but being antigens or having epitopes, and the question is generally whether they are recognized as foreign antigens by species other from those in which they originate. So you need to try to get the question clear, before you or anyone else can attempt to answer it. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Jan 19 '20 at 20:52

Hormones have antigens. Usually they are antigens our immune systems recognize as self.

Pretty much any big biological molecule will have antigens. FSH is no exception. The binding of FSH to anti-FSH antibodies (in a laboratory system) is one way to measure FSH levels in a human.

Definition and Measurement of Follicle Stimulating Hormone

B. High-affinity binding assays 1. Immunoassays. Immunoassays are widely used for clinical determination of FSH for diagnosis and in physiological studies because they are rapid, readily available, relatively cheap, and sensitive... Most commercially available assays are now based on sandwiches of monoclonal or monoclonal-polyclonal antibodies with a variety of detection modes and are generally more sensitive and precise than one-site assays. The latter assays are highly specific and may exclude some forms of the hormone of interest (e.g., Ref. 176).

The antibodies used to measure FSH are from other species of mammals - usually mice but sometimes other animals. People (and other animals) normally do not form antibodies to molecules that have been present in their bodies since development. The immune system is educated early on about what is self and so exempt from attack. Mouse FSH is antigenically different enough from human FSH that mice can be induced to form antibodies against human FSH and then those mouse antibodies are used to make the lab test. You can find out how those tests work with a little googling because they are for sale and their owners will brag about them.

It is possible to form antibodies against your own FSH or any other biomolecule in your body. That is autoimmunity and usually that is not good. The woman in the linked article was infertile because of antibodies against FSH. Her FSH level was very high because her pituitary was cranking it out. Her immune system bound it up as fast as it came out and so the FSH did not work.

Abnormally Elevated Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) Level in an Infertile Woman

We describe here a case of anti-FSH autoantibodies leading to persisting very high FSH serum levels in an infertile woman.

Bullet points

  • Any biological macromolecule has antigens.
  • The immune system may tolerate antigens it has been educated to recognize as self.
  • Sometimes the immune system becomes intolerant of an antigen it should recognize as self and attacks that antigen. This is autoimmune disease.
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ As I mentioned in my comment on the question, we don't usually refer to molecules having antigens, but being antigens. We do refer to cells having antigens as they have macromolecules on their surfaces. You can easily check this by doing a Google search for "have antigens". It would be helpful to the poster and others to edit has question and your answer in this respect. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Jan 20 '20 at 17:12
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Antigenic sites are generally referred to as epitopes. They are not the same as antigens, which term is used to refer to the macromolecule with such site(s). Argue all you like, but scientific communication involves using, and introducing people to standard terminology that allows them to express ideas with precision in a way that is understandable to others. Not correcting novices for fear of offending them is selling them short $\endgroup$
    – David
    Jan 20 '20 at 21:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.