The generation of memory B cells is maintained, but the antibody response is not, in the elderly after repeated influenza immunizations.Vaccine 2016; 34(25):2834-40V
The success of a vaccine in inducing a protective antibody response depends on the longevity of both long-lived plasma cells (PC) and memory B cells. We have previously shown that the in vivo antibody response to a new influenza vaccine, the ex vivo plasmablast response, the in vitro B cell function, measured by AID (activation-induced cytidine deaminase), and the transcription factor E47, are significantly associated and decreased in elderly individuals. We hypothesized that because AID is decreased in the elderly, the ability to generate memory B cells would also be decreased, but our findings here show that memory B cells are maintained in the elderly probably due to further amplification in response to repeated vaccination. We recruited young and elderly individuals immunized in at least two consecutive influenza vaccine seasons in which the influenza A viral strains H1N1 and H3N2 in the vaccine were the same as in the previous year. PBMC were cultured with CpG/IL2 to measure the frequency of IgG vaccine-specific memory B cells. Serum antibody response was measured by hemagglutination inhibition assay. Blood plasmablasts were measured by flow cytometry. Surprisingly, the frequencies of influenza vaccine-specific memory B cells and plasmablasts were similar in young and elderly individuals, but the fold-increase in serum titers after vaccination was lower in the elderly although most of the elderly were seroprotected. We then measured the transcription factor Blimp-1, considered the master regulator of PC differentiation, and found it significantly reduced in cultures of B cells from elderly versus young individuals, as well as E47/AID and IgG secretion. Taken together, these results suggest an impaired memory B cell to PC differentiation in the elderly.