Distinguishing naive- from memory-derived human B cells during acute responses

Clin Transl Immunology. 2019 Nov 13;8(11):e01090. doi: 10.1002/cti2.1090. eCollection 2019.


Objectives: A fundamental question in influenza research is whether antibody titre decline upon successive exposure to variant strains is consequent to recall of cross-reactive memory B cells that competitively inhibit naive B-cell responses. In connection, it is not clear whether naive and memory B cells remain phenotypically distinct acutely after activation such that they may be distinguished ex vivo.

Methods: Here, we first compared the capacity of anti-Ig and Toll-like-receptor (TLR) 7/8 and TLR9 agonists (R848 and CpG) to augment human B-cell differentiation induced by IL-21 and sCD40L. The conditions that induced optimal differentiation were then used to compare the post-activation phenotype of sort-purified naive and memory B-cell subsets by FACS and antibody-secreting cell (ASC) ELISPOT.

Results: Sort-purified naive and memory B cells underwent robust plasmablast and ASC formation when stimulated with R848, but not CpG, and co-cultured with monocytes. This coincided with increased IL-1β and IL-6 production when B cells were co-cultured with monocytes and stimulated with R848, but not CpG. Naive B cells underwent equivalent ASC generation, but exhibited less class-switch and modulation of CD27, CD38 and CD20 expression than memory B cells after stimulation with R848 and monocytes for 6 days.

Conclusion: Stimulation with R848, IL-21 and sCD40L in the presence of monocytes induces robust differentiation and ASC generation from both naive and memory B-cells. However, naive and memory B cells retain key phenotypic differences after activation that may facilitate ex vivo discrimination and better characterisation of acute responses to variant antigens.

Keywords: B cell; TLR; differentiation; memory; monocyte; naive.