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Antibody and Antigen

Igg, Iga, Igm, Ige, Types Of Antigens, Vaccination, Monoclonal AntibodiesFunctions of antibody types, IgD

The antibody and antigen reaction is an important protective mechanism against invading foreign substances. The antibody and antigen reaction, together with phagocytosis, constitute the immune response (humoral immune response). Invading foreign substances are antigens while the antibodies, or immunoglobulins, are specific proteins generated (or previously and present in blood, lymph or mucosal secretions) to react with a specific antigen.

Antigens, which are usually proteins or polysaccharides, stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies. The antibodies inactivate the antigen and help to remove it from the body. While antigens can be the source of infections from pathogenic bacteria and viruses, organic molecules detrimental to the body from internal or environmental sources also act as antigens.

Once the immune system has created an antibody for an antigen whose attack it has survived, it continues to produce antibodies for subsequent attacks from that antigen. This long-term memory of the immune system provides the basis for the practice of vaccination against disease. The immune system, with its production of antibodies, has the ability to recognize, remember, and destroy well over a million different antigens.

There are several types of simple proteins known as globulins in the blood: alpha, beta, and gamma. Antibodies are gamma globulins produced by B lymphocytes when antigens enter the body. The gamma globulins are referred to as immunoglobulins. In medical literature they appear in the abbreviated form as Ig. Each antigen stimulates the production of a specific antibody (Ig).

Antibodies are all in a Y-shape with differences in the upper branch of the Y. These structural differences of amino acids in each of the antibodies enable the individual antibody to recognize an antigen. An antigen has on its surface a combining site that the antibody recognizes from the combining sites on the arms of its Y-shaped structure. In response to the antigen that has called it forth, the antibody wraps its two combining sites like a "lock" around the "key" of the antigen combining sites to destroy it.

An antibody's mode of action varies with different types of antigens. With its two-armed Y-shaped structure, the antibody can attack two antigens at the same time with each arm. If the antigen is a toxin produced by pathogenic bacteria that cause an infection like diphtheria or tetanus, the binding process of the antibody will nullify the antigen's toxin. When an antibody surrounds a virus, such as one that causes influenza, it prevents it from entering other body cells. Another mode of action by the antibodies is to call forth the assistance of a group of immune agents which operate in what is known as the plasma complement system. First the antibodies will coat infectious bacteria and then white blood cells will complete the job by engulfing the bacteria, destroying them, and then removing them from the body.

Schematic diagrams of several classes of antibody molecules. Illustration by Hans & Cassidy. Courtesy of Gale Group.

There are five different antibody types, each one having a different Y-shaped configuration and function. They are the Ig G, A, M, D, and E antibodies.

This antibody appears to act in conjunction with B and T cells to help them in location of antigens. Research continues on establishing more precise functions of this antibody.

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