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11. Immunoglobulins



Antibodies belong to a family of large protein molecules known as immunoglobulins.

Scientists have identified nine chemically distinct classes of human immunoglobulins, four kinds of IgG and two kinds of IgA, plus IgM, IgE, and IgD.

Immunoglobulins G, D, and E are similar in appearance. IgG, the major immunoglobulin in the blood, is also able to enter tissue spaces; it works efficiently to coat microorganisms, speeding their destruction by other cells in the immune system. IgD is almost exclusively found inserted into the membrane of B cells, where it somehow regulates the cell's activation. IgE is normally present in only trace amounts, but it is responsible for the symptoms of allergy.

IgA--a doublet--guards the entrance to the body. It concentrates in body fluids such as tears, saliva, and secretions of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts.

IgM usually combines in star-shaped clusters. It tends to remain in the bloodstream, where it is very effective in killing bacteria.