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Molecule in the immune system that circulates in blood and lymph in response to invasion by an antigen. Antibodies are globulins formed in lymphoid tissues by B cells, whose receptors are specialized to bind to a specific antigen. These receptors are copied as antibodies that attack the target antigens by binding to them, either neutralizing them or triggering a complement reaction. Antibodies have widely varying binding sites, providing protection from a wide range of infectious agents and toxic substances. Antibodies derived from the blood serum of infected people or animals are often given in an antiserum for quick immunization against fast-acting toxins or microbes. In 1975 César Milstein and colleagues developed a process for producing specific antibodies in virtually limitless amounts; these monoclonal antibodies can deliver radiation or drugs directly to specific antigens. See alsoantitoxin; reticuloendothelial system.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on antibody, visit Britannica.com.