The major cells of the immune system are lymphocytes. Lymphocytes that are critical for immune reactions are of two types namely B-cells and T-cells. Both cells develop from stem cells located in the liver of the foetus and in bone marrow cells of adults.
The lymphocytes which are differentiated in the bone marrow are B-cells. The lymphocytes that migrate to thymus and differentiate under its influence are called T-cells. The young lymphocytes migrate to lymphoid tissues such as spleen, lymph nodes and tonsils where they undergo final maturation. Matured lymphocytes circulate in the body fluids. T-cells are responsible for cellular immunity and B-cells produce antibodies about 20 trillion per day.
Both components require antigens to trigger them into action but they respond differently.
An antigen is a substance when introduce into an individual, stimulates the production of an antibody with which it reacts. Antigens are large molecules of proteins or polysaccharides. Some of the antigens are the parts of microorganisms others include pollen, egg white, certain fruits, vegetables, chicken, feathers etc.
Antibodies are protein molecules called immunoglobulin (Ig). They are produced by lymphocytes. The antibodies inactivate antigens. An antibody consists of four amino acid chains bounded together by disulphide bonds. Of the four chains two are long, heavy chains and two are short, light chains. All of them are arranged in the shape of the letter ‘Y’. The tail portion of antibody having two heavy chains is called constant fragment (Fc). On the tip of each short arm, an antigen- binding fragment (Fab) is present which specifically hold antigen.
Based upon the five types of heavy chains, the immunoglobulin's are classified into five major types. Light chains are similar in all types of Immunoglobulin's.
TYPES OF IMMUNOGLOBULIN'S
lgG is the most important long acting antibody representing about 80% of the antibodies. The second important antibody is IgM. IgA is called secretory antibody, found in tears, saliva and colostrum, (the first milk secreted by mother). IgD serves as a receptor site at the surface of B cells to secrete other antibodies. IgE plays an important role in allergic reactions by sensitizing cells to certain antigens.