The antibody molecule is composed of four polypeptide chains (see peptide)—two identical light chains and two identical heavy chains—joined by disulfide bridges. The light chains have a variable portion that is different in each type of antibody and is the active portion of the molecule that binds with the specific antigen. Antibodies combine with some antigens, such as bacterial toxins, and neutralize their effect; they remove other substances from circulation in body fluids; they bind certain antigens together, a process known as agglutination; and they activate complement, blood serum proteins that cause the destruction of invading cells.
See also monoclonal antibody.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Anatomy and Physiology