SARS-CoV-2 infection induces germinal center responses with robust stimulation of CD4 T follicular helper cells in rhesus macaques.

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Sonny R ElizaldiSmita S Iyer


CD4 T follicular helper (T fh ) cells are important for the generation of long-lasting and specific humoral protection against viral infections. The degree to which SARS-CoV-2 infection generates T fh cells and stimulates the germinal center response is an important question as we investigate vaccine options for the current pandemic. Here we report that, following infection with SARS-CoV-2, adult rhesus macaques exhibited transient accumulation of activated, proliferating T fh cells in their peripheral blood on a transitory basis. The CD4 helper cell responses were skewed predominantly toward a T h 1 response in blood, lung, and lymph nodes, reflective of the interferon-rich cytokine environment following infection. We also observed the generation of germinal center T fh cells specific for the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) and nucleocapsid (N) proteins, and a corresponding early appearance of antiviral serum IgG antibodies but delayed or absent IgA antibodies. Our data suggest that a vaccine promoting Th1-type Tfh responses that target the S protein may lead to protective immunity.


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