Shared B cell memory to coronaviruses and other pathogens varies in human age groups and tissues

Science. 2021 May 14;372(6543):738-741. doi: 10.1126/science.abf6648. Epub 2021 Apr 12.


Vaccination and infection promote the formation, tissue distribution, and clonal evolution of B cells, which encode humoral immune memory. We evaluated pediatric and adult blood and deceased adult organ donor tissues to determine convergent antigen-specific antibody genes of similar sequences shared between individuals. B cell memory varied for different pathogens. Polysaccharide antigen-specific clones were not exclusive to the spleen. Adults had higher clone frequencies and greater class switching in lymphoid tissues than blood, while pediatric blood had abundant class-switched convergent clones. Consistent with reported serology, prepandemic children had class-switched convergent clones to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 with weak cross-reactivity to other coronaviruses, while adult blood or tissues showed few such clones. These results highlight the prominence of early childhood B cell clonal expansions and cross-reactivity for future responses to novel pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coronavirus / immunology*
  • Cross Reactions
  • Ebolavirus / immunology
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / immunology
  • Genes, Immunoglobulin
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Class Switching
  • Immunoglobulin D / genetics
  • Immunoglobulin D / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin M / genetics
  • Immunoglobulin M / immunology
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Infant
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell / immunology
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • Somatic Hypermutation, Immunoglobulin
  • Spleen / immunology
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin D
  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell