Early T follicular helper cell activity accelerates hepatitis C virus-specific B cell expansion

Eduardo Salinas, Maude Boisvert, Amit A. Upadhyay, Nathalie Bédard, Sydney A. Nelson, Julie Bruneau, Cynthia A. Derdeyn, Joseph Marcotrigiano, Matthew J. Evans, Steven E. Bosinger, Naglaa H. Shoukry, Arash Grakoui

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12 Scopus citations


Early appearance of neutralizing antibodies during acute hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is associated with spontaneous viral clearance. However, the longitudinal changes in antigen-specific memory B cell (MBCs) associated with divergent HCV infection outcomes remain undefined. We characterized longitudinal changes in E2 glycoprotein-specific MBCs from subjects who either spontaneously resolved acute HCV infection or progressed to chronic infection, using single-cell RNA-seq and functional assays. HCV-specific antibodies in plasma from chronically infected subjects recognized multiple E2 genotypes, while those from spontaneous resolvers exhibited variable cross-reactivity to heterotypic E2. E2-specific MBCs from spontaneous resolvers peaked early after infection (4-6 months), following expansion of activated circulating T follicular helper cells (cTfh) expressing interleukin 21. In contrast, E2-specific MBCs from chronically infected subjects, enriched in VH1-69, expanded during persistent infection (> 1 year), in the absence of significantly activated cTfh expansion. Early E2-specific MBCs from spontaneous resolvers produced monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) with fewer somatic hypermutations and lower E2 binding but similar neutralization as mAbs from late E2-specific MBCs of chronically infected subjects. These findings indicate that early cTfh activity accelerates expansion of E2-specific MBCs during acute infection, which might contribute to spontaneous clearance of HCV.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere140590
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number2
StatePublished - 19 Jan 2021


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