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Classes of Immunoglobulins

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Immune System

Humans and other advanced vertebrates have an immune system, which is a diverse group of defence responses that helps repel disease-causing species (pathogens). Nonspecific, innate immunity and specific, acquired immunity are two cooperative defence mechanisms that grant disease immunity. Nonspecific defence mechanisms repel all microorganisms in the same way, while individual immune responses are targeted to specific invader forms. Both mechanisms work together to prevent species from entering the body and multiplying. These immune mechanisms also aid in the elimination of cancer-causing cells in the body.

Mechanisms of the Immune System

Nonspecific, Innate Immunity

The majority of microorganisms encountered in everyday life are repelled until they cause disease symptoms. Since these pathogens, which include viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoans, and worms, are so complex, an organism may benefit from a nonspecific protection mechanism that diverts all forms of this diverse microscopic horde equally. Physical barriers such as the skin, chemical barriers such as antimicrobial proteins that damage or kill invaders, and cells that attack foreign cells and body cells harbouring infectious agents are all examples of nonspecific defence provided by the innate immune system. 

Immunoglobulin Classification 

Since these segments are not identical in all immunoglobulins, the word "constant field" is a little misleading. Rather, they are essentially the same in large groups. Immunoglobulins that belong to the same class have the same basic types of constant domains in their H chains. IgG, IgM, IgA, IgD, and IgE are the 5 classes of immunoglobulins, each of which has a variety of distinct subclasses, also known as immunoglobulin isotypes. In addition, there are two basic types of L chains, lambda and kappa chains, both of which can be associated with each of the H chain groups, allowing immunoglobulins to have even more variety. The different types of immunoglobulins are listed below.

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The most common form of immunoglobulin is IgG. It contains blood and tissue fluids in the largest amounts. Each IgG molecule has two identical antigen-binding sites since it is made up of the basic four-chain immunoglobulin structure—two identical H chains and two identical L chains (either kappa or lambda). IgG is divided into four subclasses, each with slight variations in their H chains but distinct biological properties. Because IgG is the only immunoglobulin type that can cross the placenta, it provides some immune protection to the developing foetus. These molecules are also secreted into the mother's milk and can be transferred into the bloodstream after being consumed by an infant, where they offer immunity.


IgM immunoglobulin type is the first class of immunoglobulin produced by B cells as they mature, and it is the form most commonly found as the antigen receptor on the surface of B cells. Five of the simple Y-shaped units are joined together to form a huge pentamer molecule with 10 antigen-binding sites when IgM is secreted from the cells. This broad antibody molecule is especially good at binding to antigenic determinants found on bacteria's outer coats. Microorganisms agglutinate, or clump together, as a result of this IgM addition.


Immunoglobulin A (IgA, also known as sIgA in its secretory form) is an antibody that is important for mucous membrane immune function. IgA is formed in greater quantities in combination with mucosal membranes than all other forms of antibody combined. Per day, between three and five grammes are secreted into the intestinal lumen in absolute terms. This can account for up to 15% of total immunoglobulins released in the body.

IgA is divided into two subclasses (IgA1 and IgA2) and can be generated in both monomeric and dimeric forms. The most common type of IgA is dimeric IgA, also known as secretory IgA. (sIgA). Tears, saliva, sweat, colostrum, and secretions from the genitourinary tract, gastrointestinal tract, prostate, and respiratory epithelium all contain sIgA, which is the primary immunoglobulin present in mucous secretions. It's also present in blood in trace quantities. The secretory portion of sIgA prevents proteolytic enzymes from degrading the immunoglobulin, allowing it to survive in the harsh gastrointestinal tract environment and provide defences against microbes that multiply in body secretions. Other immunoglobulins' inflammatory effects can be inhibited by sIgA. IgA is a slow opsonize and a poor activator of the complement system.


The immunoglobulin IgD antibody isotype makes up around 1% of proteins in immature B-lymphocyte plasma membranes, where it is normally co-expressed with another cell surface antibody called IgM. IgD is also formed in a secreted form, which is contained in trace quantities in blood serum, accounting for 0.25 per cent of all immunoglobulins. Secreted IgD has a relative molecular mass of 185 kDa and a half-life of 2.8 days. Secreted IgD is a monomeric antibody that consists of two deltas (δ) heavy chains and two Ig light chains.

IgD Antibody Function 

Since its discovery in 1964, the role of IgD has remained a mystery in immunology. IgD is found in a wide range of animals, from cartilaginous fish to humans (with the possible exception of birds). This nearly universal presence in organisms with an adaptive immune system shows that IgD is as old as IgM and that it serves essential immunological functions.

The role of IgD in B cells is to signal the activation of B cells. B cells that have been programmed are able to participate in the body's protection as part of the immune system. IgM is the only isotype expressed by immature B cells during B cell differentiation. When a B cell leaves the bone marrow to populate peripheral lymphoid tissues, it begins to express IgD. When a B cell matures, it produces both IgM and IgD antibodies. IgD signalling is only triggered by repeated multivalent immunogens, according to a 2016 study by Übelhart and colleagues, while IgM signalling can be triggered by soluble monomeric or multivalent immunogens. There are no significant B cell-intrinsic defects in Cδ knockout mice (mice that have been genetically altered to not contain IgD). IgD may play a part in allergic reactions.

IgD has recently been discovered to bind to basophils and mast cells, activating them to develop antimicrobial factors and participating in human respiratory immune protection. Basophils are also stimulated to release B cell homeostatic factors. This is consistent with IgD knockout mice having fewer peripheral B cells, lower serum IgE levels, and a defective primary IgG1 response.


Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is a type of antibody (or "isotype" of immunoglobulin (Ig)) found only in mammals. Plasma cells are responsible for the development of IgE. IgE monomers are made up of two heavy chains (chain) and two light chains (C1-C4), with the chain having four Ig-like constant domains. Immunity to parasitic helminths like Schistosoma mansoni, Trichinella spiralis, and Fasciola hepatica is IgE's key feature. IgE is involved in the immune response to protozoan parasites including Plasmodium falciparum. It's possible that IgE emerged as the last line of protection against venoms.

IgE also plays an important role in type I hypersensitivity, which manifests itself in allergic asthma, most forms of sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, food allergies, and specific types of chronic urticaria and atopic dermatitis. IgE also plays a key role in allergic reactions to allergens including medications, bee stings, and antigen preparations used in desensitisation immunotherapy.

While IgE is the least abundant isotype—blood serum IgE levels in a regular ("non-atopic") person are just 0.05 per cent of Ig concentration, compared to 75 per cent for IgGs at 10 mg/ml, which are the isotypes responsible for the majority of the classical adaptive immune response—it is capable of causing anaphylaxis, one of the most rapid and serious immunological reactions.

IgE Immunoglobulin Function 

1. Parasite Hypothesis

The physiological function of IgE has been accumulating evidence in the last decade: this isotype has co-evolved with basophils and mast cells in the defence against parasites such as helminths (such as Schistosoma), but it may also be effective in bacterial infections. Humans infected with Schistosoma mansoni, Necator americanus, and nematodes have higher IgE levels, according to epidemiological studies. It's probably helpful in getting rid of hookworms in the lungs.

2. Toxin Hypothesis of Allergic Disease

Margie Profet proposed in 1981 that allergic reactions emerged as the last line of protection against venoms. While controversial at the time, new research backs up some of the Prophet's ideas about allergies' adaptive function as a shield against noxious toxins.

IgE-antibodies were discovered to be crucial in gaining resistance to honey bees and Russell's viper venoms in 2013. The authors conclude that "a small dose of bee venom conferred immunity to a much larger, lethal dose" and that "this form of venom-specific, IgE-associated, adaptive immune response evolved, at least in evolutionary terms, to protect the host against potentially toxic quantities of venom, such that, it would occur if the animal encountered a whole nest of bees or in the event of a snakebite." The main allergen in bee venom (phospholipase A2) triggers a Th2 immune response, which is linked to the development of IgE antibodies, and can "increase mice's resistance to potentially lethal doses."

3. Cancer

IgE may play an important role in the immune system's identification of cancer, with the stimulation of a powerful cytotoxic response against cells showing only small amounts of early cancer markers being beneficial. If this is the case, anti-IgE medications like omalizumab (for allergies) can have unfavourable side effects. However, a recent study concluded that a causal association between omalizumab therapy and malignancy is doubtful, based on a pooled review of extensive evidence from 67 phases I to IV clinical trials of omalizumab in different indications.

Why Knowing the Isotype Matters

Since immune responses differ depending on the antigen that is introduced to the immune system, quantifying individual antibody levels may aid in interpreting the immune response following immunisation or vaccination.

Human monoclonal antibody levels are often commonly used as a diagnostic indicator to assess immunoglobulin-deficiency disorders, such as autoimmune diseases and gastrointestinal conditions caused by particular isotype deficiencies or differing concentrations of one or more isotypes. The absence of one isotype class or subclass to a complete deficiency of immunoglobulin groups are all possible disease states.

Human Classes and Subclasses of Immunoglobulins and their Properties.



Serum Level 


Molecular Mass 


Activation/Binding of Complement





0.6 – 3

160 (monomer)





0.06 – 0.6

160 (monomer)






970 (pentamer)





5 x 10-5






3.8 – 11.4






1.5 – 6.9






0.2 – 1.7






0.08 – 1.4




+++ = Very strong affinity; ++ = Strong affinity; + = Moderate affinity; - = No affinity

Do You Know? 

How does the normal production of antibodies take place? The amount of immunoglobulin in most people's blood is fairly constant, indicating a balance between the continuous breakdown of these proteins and their production. IgG (including its subclasses) has about 4 times the amount of IgA, 10 to 15 times the amount of IgM, 300 times the amount of IgD, and 30,000 times the amount of IgE.

Part of the usual development of immunoglobulin is certainly a constant reaction to an antigenic stimulus, however, even animals raised in environments free of microbes and their products produce significant quantities of immunoglobulin, although in smaller amounts. As a result, much of the immunoglobulin must be the result of all the B cells that are "ticking over" even though they are not stimulated. It's not shocking, then, that ultra-sensitive methods will detect traces of antibodies reacting with antigenic determinants to which an animal has never been exposed but for which cells with receptors exist.

To make the immunoglobulin they secrete, all B cells have the option of using any of the constant-region groups. As previously mentioned, most secrete IgM when first stimulated. Some continue to do so, but others eventually move to IgG, IgA, or IgE output. Memory B cells, which are adapted for reacting to repeated antigen infections, produce IgG or IgA right away. It's unclear what factors influence the balance between antibody groups. It is, however, affected by the antigen's presence and location of deposition (parasites, for example, appear to elicit IgE), and their development is clearly regulated by factors known as cytokines, which are released locally by T cells.

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FAQs on Classes of Immunoglobulins

1. What are the Five Classes of Immunoglobulins?

Answer. IgG, IgM, IgA, IgD, and IgE are the five main types of immunoglobulins. The form of heavy chain present in the molecule distinguishes these. IgG molecules have gamma-chains, my-chains, alpha-chains, epsilon-chains, and delta-chains, while IgMs have my-chains, IgAs have alpha-chains, IgEs have epsilon-chains, and IgDs have delta-chains.

2. What Do Low Immunoglobulin Levels Mean?

Answer. Immunoglobulin levels below normal indicate that the immune system isn't functioning as well as it should. Medicines that weaken the immune system, such as steroids, may cause this. Complications with diabetes, Kidney disease or kidney failure is a condition in which the kidneys are damaged or fail.