Phenotypic analysis of pneumococcal polysaccharide-specific B cells

J Immunol. 2012 Mar 1;188(5):2455-63. Epub 2012 Jan 23.

Department of Medicine, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH 43614, USA.
The phenotype of B cells responsible for the production of anti-pneumococcal polysaccharide Ab has been unclear. Although individuals that respond poorly to the 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPS) vaccine, Pneumovax, such as children <2 y, the asplenic, and a subset of common variable immunodeficiency patients, are profoundly deficient or lack IgM memory cells (CD27(+)IgM(+)), they are also deficient in the switched memory (CD27(+)IgM(-)) compartment. Direct characterization of PPS-specific B cells has not been performed. In this study, we labeled PPS14 and PPS23F with fluorescent markers. Fluorescently labeled PPS were used in FACSAria flow cytometry to characterize the phenotype of PPS-specific B cells obtained from 18 young adults pre- and postimmunization with Pneumovax. The labeled PPS were capable of inhibiting binding of Ab to the native PPS. Similarly, the native PPS were able to inhibit binding of PPS-specific B cells in a flow cytometric assay demonstrating specificity and functionality. Phenotypic analysis of unselected B cells, pre- and postimmunization, demonstrated a predominance of naive CD27(-)IgM(+) cells accounting for 61.5% of B cells. Likewise, the PPS-specific B cells obtained preimmunization consisted primarily of naive, CD27(-) B cells, 55.4-63.8%. In contrast, the PPS-specific B cells obtained postimmunization were predominantly IgM memory cells displaying the CD27(+)IgM(+), 54.2% for PPS14 and 66% for PPS23F, significantly higher than both unselected B cells and PPS-specific B cells. There was no significant difference in switched memory B cell populations (CD27(+)IgM(-)) between groups. These results suggest a dominant role of IgM memory cells in the immune response to pneumococcal polysaccharides.