B cells produce a diverse antibody repertoire by undergoing gene rearrangements. Pathogen exposure induces the clonal expansion of B cells expressing antibodies that can bind the infectious agent. To assess human B cell responses to trivalent seasonal influenza and monovalent pandemic H1N1 vaccination, we sequenced gene rearrangements encoding the immunoglobulin heavy chain, a major determinant of epitope recognition. The magnitude of B cell clonal expansions correlates with an individual's secreted antibody response to the vaccine, and the expanded clones are enriched with those expressing influenza-specific monoclonal antibodies. Additionally, B cell responses to pandemic influenza H1N1 vaccination and infection in different people show a prominent family of convergent antibody heavy chain gene rearrangements specific to influenza antigens. These results indicate that microbes can induce specific signatures of immunoglobulin gene rearrangements and that pathogen exposure can potentially be assessed from B cell repertoires.
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