(Ab), also known as an immunoglobulin
(Ig), is a large, Y-shaped protein produced mainly by plasma cells
that is used by the immune system
to identify and neutralize pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. The antibody recognizes a unique molecule of the harmful agent, called an antigen, via the variable region. Each tip of the "Y" of an antibody contains a paratope (analogous to a lock) that is specific for one particular epitope (similarly analogous to a key) on an antigen, allowing these two structures to bind together with precision. Using this binding mechanism, an antibody can tag
a microbe or an infected cell for attack by other parts of the immune system, or can neutralize its target directly (for example, by blocking a part of a microbe that is essential for its invasion and survival). The ability of an antibody to communicate with the other components of the immune system is mediated via its Fc region (located at the base of the "Y"), which contains a conserved glycosylation site involved in these interactions. The production of antibodies is the main function of the humoral immune system.