The specificity enigma: From mechanics to poiesis

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Biological specificity is usually described in terms of the lock-and-key metaphor. However, this metaphor is to a certain extent misleading and does not grasp the complexity underlying biological specificity. The failure of the lock-and-key metaphor makes it difficult to understand immune recognition. This is the reason why immune specificity has been described as the "Specificity Enigma." In this article, I point at three important differences between biological specificity and mechanical specificity, and suggest an alternative lens through which immune specificity can be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-341
Number of pages15
JournalTheoretical Biology Forum
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2006


  • Biosemiotics
  • Immune specificity
  • Meaning-making
  • The cognitive paradigm in immunology
  • The lock-and-key metaphor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)


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