Some of the most influential papers in 1992, according to data provided by the Philadelphia-based Institute for Scientific Information, were in immunology. This is not surprising, given the field's applications in stemming AIDS, cancer, and other pressing diseases.

The most cited paper published within the last two years is from the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tbingen, Germany (K. Falk, et al., Nature, 351:290, 1991). This paper, which by the end of February 1993 had been referred to in 220 subsequent articles, deals with an advance in the understanding of MHC, the major histocompatibility complex molecules.

MHC binds short peptides that are derived from intracellular proteins. The peptides are then presented to the cell surface for inspection by the immune system. Native proteins produce "self peptides," which are recognized as friendly, while foreign proteins give rise to antigenic peptides and stimulate an immune response.

In the work by Kirsten...

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