Examination of the immunoglobulin repertoire before and after Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed immunization
Sawatzki, Kaitlin Michele Robbins
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Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA) immunization protects against anthrax disease by eliciting a neutralizing antibody response. However, antigen-specific antibody concentrations are not observed in high quantities until three immunizations have been administered over six months. Even then, humoral responses to AVA do not provide long-term immunity without an annual booster. We followed six healthy volunteers over the five-dose, 18-month AVA schedule to characterize the genetics of the immunoglobulin repertoire during the vaccination series. Two tiers of data were collected: 1) Immunoglobulin variable region genes (IgVRG) from bulk sorted naïve, memory and plasmablast (PB) B cells and 2) single cell sorted and sequenced IgVRG from plasmablasts. Samples were collected prior to and one and two weeks following each immunization. Our initial analyses indicated that technical error, the variation introduced by biological sampling and standard sample preparation, resulted in skewed output, and we developed a model to better estimate quantitative values from Ig-seq. We also utilized unique molecular identifiers to correct for nucleotide errors and PCR over-amplification. Our analysis of IgVRG following AVA administration reveals that the population of peripheral PBs following primary immunization is not distinguishable from the pre-immune peripheral PB repertoire. These PBs have more somatic mutations than expected for newly activated and differentiated naïve B cells, and are unlikely to be vaccine-elicited. In contrast, PBs observed following the 2nd dose have low mutation frequencies that increase upon subsequent vaccination. These clones are more persistent than clones first observed following any other immunization, but still make up a very small proportion of the overall repertoire. At no time is the clonal repertoire consistently dominated by a few clones, and the total and plasmablast repertoires are highly transient, even after the elicitation of vaccine-specific antibodies. AVA immunization thus results in a polyclonal B cell response which is not dominated by one or a few highly specific, strongly-elicited clones. We conclude that primary immunization by AVA is not sufficiently immunogenic to elicit vaccine-responsive, class-switched PBs to the periphery, nor is complete AVA immunization able to sustain proliferation of individual clones, providing insight into why AVA may require regular boosts.