Perturbation of B cell gene expression persists in HIV-infected children despite effective antiretroviral therapy and predicts H1N1 response

Nicola Cotugno, Lesley De Armas, Suresh Pallikkuth, Stefano Rinaldi, Biju Issac, Alberto Cagigi, Paolo Rossi, Paolo Palma, Savita Pahwa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Despite effective antiretroviral therapy (ART), HIV-infected individuals with apparently similar clinical and immunological characteristics can vary in responsiveness to vaccinations. However, molecular mechanisms responsible for such impairment, as well as biomarkers able to predict vaccine responsiveness in HIV-infected children, remain unknown. Following the hypothesis that a B cell qualitative impairment persists in HIVinfected children (HIV) despite effective ART and phenotypic B cell immune reconstitution, the aim of the current study was to investigate B cell gene expression of HIV compared to age-matched healthy controls (HCs) and to determine whether distinct gene expression patterns could predict the ability to respond to influenza vaccine. To do so, we analyzed prevaccination transcriptional levels of a 96-gene panel in equal numbers of sort-purified B cell subsets (SPBS) isolated from peripheral blood mononuclear cells using multiplexed RT-PCR. Immune responses to H1N1 antigen were determined by hemaglutination inhibition and memory B cell ELISpot assays following trivalentinactivated influenza vaccination (TIV) for all study participants. Although there were no differences in terms of cell frequencies of SPBS between HIV and HC, the groups were distinguishable based upon gene expression analyses. Indeed, a 28-gene signature, characterized by higher expression of genes involved in the inflammatory response and immune activation was observed in activated memory B cells (CD27+CD21-) from HIV when compared to HC despite long-term viral control (> 24 months). Further analysis, taking into account H1N1 responses after TIV in HIV participants, revealed that a 25-gene signature in resting memory (RM) B cells (CD27+CD21+) was able to distinguish vaccine responders from non-responders (NR). In fact, prevaccination RM B cells of responders showed a higher expression of gene sets involved in B cell adaptive immune responses (APRIL, BTK, BLIMP1) and BCR signaling (MTOR, FYN, CD86) when compared to NR. Overall, these data suggest that a perturbation at a transcriptional level in the B cell compartment persists despite stable virus control achieved through ART in HIV-infected children. Additionally, the present study demonstrates the potential utility of transcriptional evaluation of RM B cells before vaccination for identifying predictive correlates of vaccine responses in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1083
JournalFrontiers in immunology
Issue numberSEP
StatePublished - Sep 11 2017


  • B cell receptor
  • B cells
  • H1N1
  • Influenza vaccination
  • Pediatric HIV
  • Systems biology
  • Transcriptomics
  • Vaccinomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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