Medical Definition of Hapten

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Hapten: In immunology, a molecule that is incapable, alone, of causing the production of antibodies but which can do so when fastened to a larger antigenic molecule called a carrier.

The term "hapten" was taken from the Greek verb "haptein" meaning "to fasten or bind." Haptin and haptene are alternative forms of this term that was first introduced into usage by the pioneering German bacteriologist and immunologist Paul Erlich (1854-1915).

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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