Research ArticleInfluenza

Lineage Structure of the Human Antibody Repertoire in Response to Influenza Vaccination

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Science Translational Medicine  06 Feb 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 171, pp. 171ra19
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3004794

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Antibodies Act Their Age

One of the main advantages of the immune system in fighting infection is its ability to diversify—antibody and T cell receptor genes physically rearrange, creating a repertoire of potential responses that can be called upon and expanded if needed. However, the very diversity of this repertoire is what makes immune responses hard to study. Although we can know how any individual B cell or antibody responds to stimulation, getting the big picture is much more difficult. Adding in another variable, such as time, further complicates things. Now, Jiang et al. use high-throughput long read sequencing to characterize the human antibody response after influenza vaccination.

People of age are thought to have altered immune systems compared to younger individuals. However, why exactly how the antibody repertoire changes with age remains unclear. By analyzing more than 5 million antibody heavy chain sequences, the authors were able to compare isotype diversity, lineage structure, and mutational activity in differently aged populations. They found that the elderly have fewer lineages, with reduced diversity, compared with younger subjects; however, the antibodies present before vaccination had higher levels of mutation. These same techniques can be used to study individual-specific immune responses and may aid in optimizing vaccination in the future.

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