Active evolution of memory B-cells specific to viral gH/gL/pUL128/130/131 pentameric complex in healthy subjects with silent human cytomegalovirus infection

Lin Xia, Aimin Tang, Weixu Meng, Daniel C. Freed. Linling He, Dai Wang, Fengsheng Li, Xun Gui, Robbie D. Schultz, Haotai Chen, Xi He, Ryan Swoyer, Sha Ha, Yaping Liu, Charles D. Morris, Ming Wang, Qinjian Zhao, Wenxin Luo, Ningshao Xia, Amy S. Espeseth, Daria J. Hazuda, Richard E. Barrett, Ningyan Zhang, Jiang Zhu, Tong-Ming Fu and Zhiquiang An
Oncotarget  2017 8:73654-73669


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) can cause life-threatening infection in immunosuppressed patients, and in utero infection that may lead to birth defects. No vaccine is currently available. HCMV infection in healthy subjects is generally asymptomatic, and virus persists as latent infection for life. Host immunity is effective against reactivation and super-infection with another strain. Thus, vaccine candidates able to elicit immune responses similar to those of natural infection may confer protection. Since neutralization is essential for prophylactic vaccines, it is important to understand how antiviral antibodies are developed in natural infection. We hypothesized that the developmental path of antibodies in seropositive subjects could be unveiled by interrogating host B-cell repertoires using unique genetic signature sequences of mAbs. Towards this goal, we isolated 56 mAbs from three healthy donors with different neutralizing titers. Antibodies specific to the gH/gL/pUL128/130/131 pentameric complex were more potent in neutralization than those to gB. Using these mAbs as probes, patterns of extended lineage development for B-cells and evidence of active antibody maturation were revealed in two donors with higher neutralizing titers. Importantly, such patterns were limited to mAbs specific to the pentamer, but none to gB. Thus, memory B-cells with antiviral function such as neutralization were active during latent infection in the two donors, and this activity was responsible for their higher neutralizing titers. Our results indicated that memory B-cells of neutralizing capacity could be frequently mobilized in host, probably responding to silent viral episodes, further suggesting that neutralizing antibodies could play a role in control of recurrent infection.


Technology Platform

Next-Generation Sequencing

Research Topics

B cell Repertoire Analysis

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