What is Antibodies?
An antibody (AB), also known as an immunoglobulin (Ig), is a large, Y-shape protein produced by plasma cells that is used by the immune system to identify and neutralize pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. The antibody recognizes a unique molecule of the harmful agent, called an antigen, via the variable region. The production of antibodies is the main function of the humoral immune system.
Antibodies are secreted by cells of the adaptive immune system (B cells), and more specifically, differentiated B cells called plasma cells. Antibodies can occur in two physical forms, a soluble form that is secreted from the cell, and a membrane-bound form that is attached to the surface of a B cell and is referred to as the B cell receptor (BCR). The BCR is found only on the surface of B cells and facilitates the activation of these cells and their subsequent differentiation into either antibody factories called plasma cells or memory B cells that will survive in the body and remember that same antigen so the B cells can respond faster upon future exposure. In most cases, interaction of the B cell with a T helper cell is necessary to produce full activation of the B cell and, therefore, antibody generation following antigen binding. Soluble antibodies are released into the blood and tissue fluids, as well as many secretions to continue to survey for invading microorganisms.
Antibodies are glycoproteins belonging to the immunoglobulin superfamily; the terms antibody and immunoglobulin are often used interchangeably. The ability of antibodies to bind to FcRs helps to direct the appropriate immune response for each different type of foreign object they encounter. For example, IgE is responsible for an allergic response consisting mast cell degranulation and histamine release. IgE's Fab paratope binds to allergic antigen, for example house dust mite particles, while its Fc region binds to Fc receptor ε. The allergen-IgE-FcRε interaction mediates allergic signal transduction to induce conditions such as asthma.
Though the general structure of all antibodies is very similar, a small region at the tip of the protein is extremely variable, allowing millions of antibodies with slightly different tip structures, or antigen-binding sites, to exist. This region is known as the hypervariable region. Each of these variants can bind to a different antigen. This recombinational process that produces clonal antibody paratope diversity is called V(D)J or VJ recombination. Basically, the antibody paratope is polygenic, made up of three genes, V, D, and J. Each paratope locus is also polymorphic, such that during antibody production, one allele of V, one of D, and one of J is chosen. These gene segments are then joined together using random genetic recombination to produce the paratope. The regions where the genes are randomly recombined together is the hyper variable region used to recognise different antigens on a clonal basis.
Antibody genes also re-organize in a process called class switching that changes the one type of heavy chain Fc fragment to another, creating a different isotype of the antibody that retains the antigen-specific variable region. This allows a single antibody to be used by different types of Fc receptors, expressed on different parts of the immune system.