Lung-resident memory B cells (MBCs) provide localized protection against reinfection in respiratory airways. Currently, the biology of these cells remains largely unexplored. Here, we combined influenza and SARS-CoV-2 infection with fluorescent-reporter mice to identify MBCs regardless of antigen specificity. We found that two main transcriptionally distinct subsets of MBCs colonized the lung peribronchial niche after infection. These subsets arose from different progenitors and were both class switched, somatically mutated, and intrinsically biased in their differentiation fate toward plasma cells. Combined analysis of antigen specificity and B cell receptor repertoire segregated these subsets into "bona fide" virus-specific MBCs and "bystander" MBCs with no apparent specificity for eliciting viruses generated through an alternative permissive process. Thus, diverse transcriptional programs in MBCs are not linked to specific effector fates but rather to divergent strategies of the immune system to simultaneously provide rapid protection from reinfection while diversifying the initial B cell repertoire.
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; bona fide; bystander; influenza virus; lungs; memory B cells; respiratory infection.
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