What Are Globulins? - Definition & Types

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  • 0:04 Globulins
  • 0:29 Alpha and Beta Types
  • 1:17 Gamma Type
  • 3:10 Globulin Testing
  • 4:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

Globulins are instrumental in protecting our bodies and helping them function properly. This lesson will discuss what globulins are, the different types of globulins, and their various functions in the body.

Globulins

At first, globulins sound like something you would expect to have jump out at you at a haunted house. But they're far from that. As you are going to learn, they are actually far from scary and very beneficial to our bodies. Globulins are proteins in the blood that help to protect the body.

Not all globulins are alike though! There are three main types of globulins that are produced in different parts of the body to carry out different functions.

Alpha and Beta Types

Alpha globulins are blood proteins that are produced in the liver that serve several functions in the body. There are two types of alpha globulins, alpha-1 and alpha-2. They differ ever so slightly in structure but complete the same functions in the body. They carry hormones, cholesterol, and copper through the bloodstream and act as an enzyme for certain chemical reactions in the body. Alpha globulins also work to help or prevent the actions of other enzymes, such as those that cause the blood to clump.

Beta globulins are also blood proteins produced in the liver, with a similar structure to the alpha types. There are beta-1 and beta-2 globulins. They carry lipids, hormones, and cholesterol through the bloodstream and assist immune cells in mounting an immune response to invading bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Gamma Type

Gamma globulins are blood proteins produced by lymphocytes and plasma cells of the immune system when an immune response is needed. Almost all gamma globulins are known as immunoglobulins, also called antibodies, which are globulins that help with immune responses and immunity. There are three main types of immunoglobulins: IgM, IgG, and IgA. These immunoglobulins are produced in varying amounts when needed for an immune response to bacteria, viruses, and toxins.

IgM is the largest of the immunoglobulins and produced the first time a particular bacteria, virus, or other antigen invades the body. It's instrumental in beginning the immune response to fight invading bacteria and viruses. IgM is produced by plasma cells in the spleen and lymph nodes and circulates through the blood and lymph fluids.

IgG is the most numerous of the immunoglobulins. It's produced by plasma cells and helps the immune system identify invading bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It also helps with the cascade of steps needed to fully mount an immune response. When toxins enter the body, IgG binds to them to help neutralize toxins, so they do not have as toxic of an effect on the body. This particular immunoglobulin is found in every fluid in the body, which speaks to just how important it is.

IgA is constantly produced to help protect the respiratory and digestive tracts. It's also produced by plasma cells, but it's the plasma cells in the mucus membranes that produce IgA. IgA is primarily found in the mucus membranes in the respiratory and digestive tracts as well as in tears and saliva. It is only found in small amounts in the blood. This immunoglobulin helps the immune system by preventing invading bacteria from being able to attach to surfaces in the body and from entering the bloodstream. It also helps to neutralize toxins and with the identification of invading bacteria.

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