B cell memory: building two walls of protection against pathogens

Nat Rev Immunol. 2020 Apr;20(4):229-238. doi: 10.1038/s41577-019-0244-2. Epub 2019 Dec 13.


Surviving a single infection often results in lifelong immunity to the infecting pathogen. Such protection is mediated, in large part, by two main B cell memory 'walls' - namely, long-lived plasma cells and memory B cells. The cellular and molecular processes that drive the production of long-lived plasma cells and memory B cells are subjects of intensive research and have important implications for global health. Indeed, although nearly all vaccines in use today depend on their ability to induce B cell memory, we have not yet succeeded in developing vaccines for some of the world's most deadly diseases, including AIDS and malaria. Here, we describe the two-phase process by which antigen drives the generation of long-lived plasma cells and memory B cells and highlight the challenges for successful vaccine development in each phase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Communicable Diseases / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory / immunology*
  • Plasma Cells / immunology
  • Vaccines / immunology


  • Antigens
  • Vaccines