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Broad Hemagglutinin-Specific Memory B Cell Expansion by Seasonal Influenza Virus Infection Reflects Early-Life Imprinting and Adaptation to the Infecting Virus.

Abstract

Rapid and vigorous virus-specific antibody responses to influenza virus infection and vaccination result from activation of preexisting virus-specific memory B cells (MBCs). Understanding the effects of different forms of influenza virus exposure on MBC populations is therefore an important guide to the development of effective immunization strategies. We demonstrate that exposure to the influenza hemagglutinin via natural infection enhances broad protection through expansion of hemagglutinin-reactive MBC populations that recognize head and stalk regions of the molecule. Notably, we show that hemagglutinin-reactive MBC expansion reflects imprinting by early-life infection and that this might apply to stalk-reactive, as well as to head-reactive, MBCs. Our findings provide experimental support for the role of MBCs in maintaining imprinting effects and suggest a mechanism by which imprinting might confer heterosubtypic protection against avian influenza viruses. It will be important to compare our findings to the situation after influenza vaccination.

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