Markers of Non-Self
Any non-self substance capable of triggering an immune response is known as an antigen. An antigen can be a whole non-self cell, a bacterium, a virus, an MHC marker protein or even a portion of a protein from a foreign organism.
The distinctive markers on antigens that trigger an immune response are called epitopes. When tissues or cells from another individual enter your body carrying such antigenic non-self epitopes, your immune cells react. This explains why transplanted tissues may be rejected as foreign and why antibodies will bind to them.