Immunoglobulins and B-Cell Development

Chapter 1: The Immune System

Immunoglobulins and B-cell Development Figure 1

Source: Fix D., Professor at Southern Illinois University

The lymphocytes developed in the BM (B-cells) have as their final task the production of Ag-specific immunoglobulins (Ig), which function as antibodies (Ab).

Ig are proteins secreted by or present on the surface of B-cells, assembled from identical couples of heavy (H) and light (L) chains.

The highly variable N terminal regions are the Ag-binding portion (Fab fragment). The constant domains interact with the Fc receptors on the effector cells.


There are 5 classes of Ig: M, G, A, E, and D, distinguished by different heavy chains. B-cells can change the class of Ig produced: class switch.

Before being capable of producing Ag-specific Ig, B-cells must undergo a number of transformations, first in the BM and subsequently in the LNs.

In the rest of the cells in the body (not B-cells), the genes encoding for the H and L chains of the Ig are distributed in many segments so that they cannot be expressed.


These Gene segments must be rearranged within the chromosome in the B-cells so the final gene structure allows the expression of a functional protein.

The first stages of B-cell development occur in the BM, where pro-B-cells first rearrange the Ig H chain gene to become a pre-B-cell.

Pre-B-cells continue this somatic recombination process by rearranging the L chain to become an immature B-cell, expressing IgM on their surface.

Revision Questions

  1. What are the Fab and the Fc portions of an Immunoglobulin?
  2. What distinguishes a pre-B from a pro-B from an immature B-cell?
  3. What is meant with the term “somatic recombination”?
Last update: 01 June 2015
Immunoglobulins and B-Cell Development
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