SARS-CoV-2 infection generates tissue-localized immunological memory in humans

Sci Immunol. 2021 Nov 19;6(65):eabl9105. doi: 10.1126/sciimmunol.abl9105. Epub 2021 Nov 19.


Adaptive immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection have been extensively characterized in blood; however, most functions of protective immunity must be accomplished in tissues. Here, we report from examination of SARS-CoV-2 seropositive organ donors (ages 10 to 74) that CD4+ T, CD8+ T, and B cell memory generated in response to infection is present in the bone marrow, spleen, lung, and multiple lymph nodes (LNs) for up to 6 months after infection. Lungs and lung-associated LNs were the most prevalent sites for SARS-CoV-2–specific memory T and B cells with significant correlations between circulating and tissue-resident memory T and B cells in all sites. We further identified SARS-CoV-2–specific germinal centers in the lung-associated LNs up to 6 months after infection. SARS-CoV-2–specific follicular helper T cells were also abundant in lung-associated LNs and lungs. Together, the results indicate local tissue coordination of cellular and humoral immune memory against SARS-CoV-2 for site-specific protection against future infectious challenges.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular*
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Male
  • Organ Specificity / immunology
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Viral