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Biosynthesis and structure of membrane and secretory immunoglobulins

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Summary

Almost all of the body's extracellular immunoglobulin (Ig) is derived from Ig-secreting plasma cells of lymphoid tissues. The secreted material is a heterogeneous mixture of different classes and specificities. Lymphoid tissues also contain a large number of essentially non-secretory cells — B lymphocytes — which bear Ig firmly associated with their plasma membranes. Ig molecules thus exist in two functionally different forms, as membrane-bound antigen receptors on the surface of B lymphocytes on the one hand, and as humoral secreted Ig antibodies on the other. On B cells, membrane-bound heavy chains have an apparent mol. wt. slightly larger than that of secreted heavy chains from plasma cells. Membrane-bound but not secreted heavy chains bind detergents, thus suggesting the presence of a hydrophobic region in membrane-bound heavy chains, which is absent in secreted heavy chains. Most investigations have dealt with immunoglobulin M. The two types of IgM heavy chains differ at their carboxy termini. Recent investigations at the nucleic acid level demonstrate that membrane-associated µ chains contain a 41-residue hydrophobic tail adjacent to the last constant domain, whereas secretory µ chains contain a 20-residue hydrophilic tail. At the present time, evidence is accumulating that all membrane-bound Ig heavy chain classes may contain similar hydrophobic structures necessary for anchorage of the molecules into the lipid bilayer.

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Kocher, H.P., Bijlenga, R.K.L. & Jaton, J. Biosynthesis and structure of membrane and secretory immunoglobulins. Mol Cell Biochem 47, 11–22 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00241561

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Keywords

  • Heavy Chain
  • Lymphoid Tissue
  • Carboxy Terminus
  • Hydrophobic Tail
  • Constant Domain