Memory B cells (MBC) respond to secondary antigen challenge to protect against infection and to boost immunity following vaccinations. Despite effective treatment, chronic HIV infection disturbs MBCs by reducing numbers and altering functionality due to hyper-activation and increased apoptosis leading to suboptimal antibody responses against common infectious agents. We used single cell gene expression analysis to evaluate antigen-specific memory B cells in peripheral blood of virally-suppressed HIV-infected individuals and healthy controls stratified by serum H1N1 antibody response 3 weeks post-administration of the seasonal trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine. We used a fluorescent probe to isolate influenza H1N1-specific B cells and a multiplexed and targeted RT-PCR approach to measure expression levels of 96 genes involved in B cell activation and function. Gene profiling revealed a 4-gene predictive signature containing the phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K) inhibitor, PTEN, for identifying antigen-specific MBC from HIV-infected individuals compared to healthy controls. Gene co-expression analysis showed that in addition to overexpression of PTEN, there was increased co-expression of type I interferon-associated genes with PTEN on single cell level in HIV compared to controls. This study highlights the persistent defects in MBC from HIV-infected individuals and points to the PI3K signaling pathway as a target for potential immune intervention.
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