The immune response to pneumococcal polysaccharides 14 and 23F among elderly individuals consists predominantly of switched memory B cells

J Infect Dis. 2013 Jul;208(1):101-8. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jit139. Epub 2013 Apr 1.


The phenotype of B cells that respond to vaccination with the purified pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPS) has been a topic of debate. We have recently identified the phenotype of cells from healthy young volunteers as CD27(+)IgM(+) B cells. However, the PPS-responding B-cell population has not yet been identified in high-risk populations, such as elderly individuals. Previous studies have shown that elderly individuals have a lower percentage of immunoglobulin M memory B cells than healthy young adults. In this study, we directly characterized the phenotype of PPS-specific B cells before and after vaccination with PPS vaccine (PPV) in elderly adults, using fluorescently labeled PPS14 and PPS23F. In contrast to our observations in healthy young volunteers, the PPS-responding B-cell population consisted primarily of switched memory (CD27(+)IgM(-)) B cells. In concurrence with these findings, postvaccination immunoglobulin M concentrations were not significantly increased in this population, and the opsonophagocytic response was decreased, compared with that in young adults. These findings identify a significant shift in the phenotype of the B-cell population in response to PPV among elderly individuals.

Keywords: 23F; B cell; CD27; Pneumococcus; Streptococcus pneumoniae; elderly; flow cytometry; human; polysaccharide; vaccine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Bacterial Capsules / immunology*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunologic Memory / immunology
  • Immunologic Memory / physiology
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumococcal Vaccines / immunology*


  • 23-valent pneumococcal capsular polysaccharide vaccine
  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Pneumococcal Vaccines
  • pneumococcal polysaccharide, type 14