Congratulations to Timm, Svea and Sabrina for their study on SARS-CoV-2 humoral immunity!

v.l.n.r. Florian, Christoph, Timm, Svea, Matthias, Michi Foto: Michael Wodak, MedizinFoto Köln


The human immune response must continuously adapt to newly emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants. To investigate how B cells respond to repeated SARS-CoV-2 antigen exposure by Wu01 booster vaccination and Omicron breakthrough infection, we performed a molecular longitudinal analysis of the memory B cell pool. We demonstrate that a subsequent breakthrough infection substantially increases the frequency of B cells encoding SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies. However, this is not primarily attributable to maturation, but to selection of preexisting B cell clones. Moreover, broadly reactive memory B cells arose early and even neutralized highly mutated variants like XBB.1.5 that the individuals had not encountered. Together, our data show that SARS-CoV-2 immunity is largely imprinted on Wu01 over the course of multiple antigen contacts but can respond to new variants through preexisting diversity.