B cell and plasma cell responses take place in lymphoid organs, but because of the inaccessibility of these organs, analyses of human responses are largely performed using peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). To determine whether PBMC are a useful source of memory B cells and plasma cells in malaria, and whether they reflect Plasmodium-specific B cell responses in spleen or bone marrow, we have investigated these components of the humoral response in PBMC using a model of Plasmodium chabaudi blood-stage infections in C57BL/6 mice. We detected memory B cells, defined as isotype-switched IgD(-) IgM(-) CD19(+) B cells, and low numbers of Plasmodium chabaudi Merozoite Surface Protein-1 (MSP1)-specific memory B cells, in PBMC at all time points sampled for up to 90 days following primary or secondary infection. By contrast, we only detected CD138(+) plasma cells and MSP1-specific antibody-secreting cells within a narrow time frame following primary (days 10 to 25) or secondary (day 10) infection. CD138(+) plasma cells in PBMC at these times expressed CD19, B220 and MHC class II, suggesting that they were not dislodged bone-marrow long-lived plasma cells, but newly differentiated migratory plasmablasts migrating to the bone marrow; thus reflective of an ongoing or developing immune response. Our data indicates that PBMC can be a useful source for malaria-specific memory B cells and plasma cells, but extrapolation of the results to human malaria infections suggests that timing of sampling, particularly for plasma cells, may be critical. Studies should therefore include multiple sampling points, and at times of infection/immunisation when the B-cell phenotypes of interest are likely to be found in peripheral blood.
Nduati, E. W., Ng, D. H., Ndungu, F. M., Gardner, P., Urban, B. C., Langhorne, J.