Rapid generation of durable B cell memory to SARS-CoV-2 spike and nucleocapsid proteins in COVID-19 and convalescence

Gemma E. Hartley, Emily S.J. Edwards, Pei M. Aui, Nirupama Varese, Stephanie Stojanovic, James McMahon, Anton Y. Peleg, Irene Boo, Heidi E. Drummer, P. Mark Hogarth, Robyn E. O'Hehir, Menno C. van Zelm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Lasting immunity following SARS-CoV-2 infection is questioned because serum antibodies decline in convalescence. However, functional immunity is mediated by long-lived memory T and B (Bmem) cells. Therefore, we generated fluorescently-labeled tetramers of the spike receptor binding domain (RBD) and nucleocapsid protein (NCP) to determine the longevity and immunophenotype of SARS-CoV-2-specific Bmem cells in COVID-19 patients. A total of 36 blood samples were obtained from 25 COVID-19 patients between 4 and 242 days post-symptom onset including 11 paired samples. While serum IgG to RBD and NCP was identified in all patients, antibody levels began declining at 20 days post-symptom onset. RBD- and NCP-specific Bmem cells predominantly expressed IgM+ or IgG1+ and continued to rise until 150 days. RBD-specific IgG+ Bmem were predominantly CD27+, and numbers significantly correlated with circulating follicular helper T cell numbers. Thus, the SARS-CoV-2 antibody response contracts in convalescence with persistence of RBD- and NCP-specific Bmem cells. Flow cytometric detection of SARS-CoV-2-specific Bmem cells enables detection of long-term immune memory following infection or vaccination for COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabf8891
Number of pages14
JournalScience Immunology
Volume5
Issue number54
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2020

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