Home Previous TOC Next Switch

9. B Cells

B Cells


B cells work chiefly by secreting soluble substances known as antibodies. They mill around a lymph node, waiting for a macrophage to bring an antigen or for an invader such as a bacteria to arrive. When an antigen-specific antibody on a B cell matches up with an antigen, a remarkable transformation occurs.

The antigen binds to the antibody receptor, the B cell engulfs it, and, after a special helper T cell joins the action, the B cell becomes a large plasma cell factory that produces identical copies of specific antibody molecules at an astonishing pace--up to 10 million copies an hour.