Upregulation of IL-21 receptor on B cells and IL-21 secretion distinguishes novel 2009 H1N1 vaccine responders from nonresponders among HIV-infected persons on combination antiretroviral therapy

Suresh Pallikkuth, Sudheesh Pilakka Kanthikeel, Sandra Y. Silva, Margaret Fischl, Rajendra Pahwa, Savita Pahwa

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54 Scopus citations


Mechanisms underlying failure of novel 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine-induced Ab responses in HIV-infected persons are poorly understood. This study prospectively evaluated 16 HIV-infected patients on combination antiretroviral therapy and eight healthy controls (HC) who received a single 15 mg dose of nonadjuvanted novel 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine during the 2009 H1N1 epidemic. Peripheral blood was collected at baseline (T0) and at 7 d (T1) and 28 d (T2) postvaccination for evaluation of immune responses. Prevaccination hemagglutination inhibition Ab titer was <1:20 in all except one study participant. At T2, all HC and 8 out of 16 patients (50%) developed a vaccine-induced Ab titer of ≥1:40. Vaccine responder (R) and vaccine nonresponder patients were comparable at T0 in age, CD4 counts, virus load, and B cell immunophenotypic characteristics. At T2, HC and R patients developed an expansion of phenotypic and functional memory B cells and ex vivo H1N1-stimulated IgG Ab-secreting cells in an ELISPOT assay. The memory B cell response was preceded by a significant expansion of plasmablasts and spontaneous H1N1-specific Ab-secreting cells at T1. At T2, HC and R patients also exhibited significant increases in serum IL-21 levels and in the frequency and mean fluorescence intensity of IL-21R-expressing B cells, which correlated with serum H1N1 Ab titers. Vaccine nonresponder patients failed to develop the above-described vaccine-induced immunologic responses. The novel association of novel 2009 H1N1 vaccine-induced Ab responses with IL-21/IL-21R upregulation and with development of memory B cells and plasmablasts has implications for future research in vaccine design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6173-6181
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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