Antibody Function


Antibodies are members of the immunoglobulin family, and they comprise a principal component of the adaptive humoral immune response to foreign antigenic stimuli. Antibodies protect against infectious diseases by specifically recognizing a large universe of antigens and by mediating biological effector mechanisms, in concert with cells and other molecules, to neutralize and eliminate infectious agents and their products.

Keywords: antibody; immunoglobulin; variable region; constant region; fab; Fc

Figure 1.

An IgG molecule.



Alt FW, Bothwell AL, Knapp M et al. (1980) Synthesis of secreted and membrane‐bound immunoglobulin μ heavy chains is directed by mRNAs that differ at their 3′ end. Cell 20: 293–301.

Berberian LS, Goodglick L, Kipps TJ and Braun J (1993) VH3 Ig gene products: natural ligands for HIV gp120. Science 261: 1588–1591.

Cisar J, Kabat EA, Dorner MM and Liao J (1975) Binding properties of immunoglobulin combining sites specific for terminal or nonterminal antigenic determinants in dextran. Journal of Experimental Medicine 142: 435–459.

Du Pasquier L and Flajnik M (1999) Origin and evolution of the vertebrate immune system. In: Paul WE (ed.) Fundamental Immunology, 4th ed. pp. 605–650. Philadelphia: Lippincott‐Raven.

Edelman GM, Cunningham BA, Gall WE et al. (1969) The covalent structure of an entire gamma G immunoglobulin molecule. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 63: 78–85.

Helm BA, Spivey AC and Padlan EA (1997) Peptide blocking of IgE/receptor interactions: possibilities and pitfalls. Allergy 52: 1155–1169.

Karush F (1976) Multivalent binding and functional affinity. Contemporary Topics in Molecular Immunology 5: 217–228.

Lanzavecchia A (1985) Antigen‐specific interaction between T and B cells. Nature 314: 537–539.

Ravetch JV and Kinet J (1993) Fc receptors. Annual Review of Immunology 9: 457–492.

Rudikoff S, Giusti AM, Cook WD and Scharff MD (1982) Single amino acid substitution altering antigen‐binding specificity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 79: 1979–1983.

Sanders LA, van de Winkel JG, Rijkers GT et al. (1994) Fc gamma receptor IIa (CD32) heterogeneity in patients with recurrent bacterial respiratory tract infections. Journal of Infectious Diseases 170: 854–861.

Wu TT and Kabat EA (1970) An analysis of the sequences of the variable regions of Bence‐Jones proteins and myeloma light chains and their implications for antibody complementarity. Journal of Experimental Medicine 132: 211–250.

Further Reading

Alzari PM, Lascombe M‐B and Poljak RJ (1988) Three‐dimensional structure of antibodies. Annual Review of Immunology 6: 555–580.

Frazer JK and Capra JD (1999) Structure and function of antibodies. In: Paul WE (ed.) Fundamental Immunology, 4th edn, pp 37–74. Philadelphia: Lippincott‐Raven.

Honjo T and Alt FW (eds) (1995) Immunoglobulin Genes, 2nd edn. San Diego: Academic Press.

Ochs HD, Smith CIE and Puck JM (eds) (1998) Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases, A Molecular and Genetic Approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Lucas, Alexander H(Jul 2003) Antibody Function. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0000907]