The immune system is capable of establishing an enormous repertoire of antibodies before its first contact with antigen. Most antibodies that express germ-line sequences are of relatively low affinity. Once antigen enters the system, it stimulates a somatic mutational mechanism that generates antibodies of higher affinity and selects for the expression of those antibodies to produce a more effective immune response. The details of the mechanism and regulaton of somatic hypermutation remain to be elucidated.
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