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Human lymphocyte (phase-contrast microphotograph).—Manfred Kage/Peter Arnold
Type of leukocyte fundamental to the immune system, regulating and participating in acquired immunity. Each has receptor molecules on its surface that bind to a specific antigen. The two primary types, B cells and T cells, originate from stem cells in bone marrow and travel to lymphoid tissues. When a B cell binds to an antigen, it multiplies to form a clone of identical cells. Some of these, acted on by helper T cells, differentiate into plasma cells that produce antibodies against the antigen. Others (memory cells) multiply, providing long-term immunity to the antigen.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on lymphocyte, visit Britannica.com.