We comprehensively review memory B cells (MBCs), covering the definition of MBCs and their identities and subsets, how MBCs are generated, where they are localized, how they are maintained, and how they are reactivated. Whereas naive B cells adopt multiple fates upon stimulation, MBCs are more restricted in their responses. Evolving work reveals that the MBC compartment in mice and humans consists of distinct subpopulations with differing effector functions. We discuss the various approaches to define subsets and subset-specific roles. A major theme is the need to both deliver faster effector function upon reexposure and readapt to antigenically variant pathogens while avoiding burnout, which would be the result if all MBCs generated only terminal effector function. We discuss cell-intrinsic differences in gene expression and signaling that underlie differences in function between MBCs and naive B cells and among MBC subsets and how this leads to memory responses.
Keywords: B cell subsets; germinal center; immune memory; memory B cell; plasma cell; vaccine.