Human plasmacytoid dendritic cells at the crossroad of type I interferon-regulated B cell differentiation and antiviral response to tick-borne encephalitis virus

Marilena P Etna, Aurora Signorazzi, Daniela Ricci, Martina Severa, Fabiana Rizzo, Elena Giacomini, Andrea Gaggioli, Isabelle Bekeredjian-Ding, Anke Huckriede, Eliana M Coccia

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The Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) causes different disease symptoms varying from asymptomatic infection to severe encephalitis and meningitis suggesting a crucial role of the human host immune system in determining the fate of the infection. There is a need to understand the mechanisms underpinning TBEV-host interactions leading to protective immunity. To this aim, we studied the response of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) to the whole formaldehyde inactivated TBEV (I-TBEV), the drug substance of Encepur, one of the five commercially available vaccine. Immunophenotyping, transcriptome and cytokine profiling of PBMC revealed that I-TBEV generates differentiation of a sub-population of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) that is specialized in type I interferon (IFN) production. In contrast, likely due to the presence of aluminum hydroxide, Encepur vaccine was a poor pDC stimulus. We demonstrated I-TBEV-induced type I IFN together with Interleukin 6 and BAFF to be critical for B cell differentiation to plasmablasts as measured by immunophenotyping and immunoglobulin production. Robust type I IFN secretion was induced by pDC with the concerted action of both viral E glycoprotein and RNA mirroring previous data on dual stimulation of pDC by both S. aureus and influenza virus protein and nucleic acid that leads to a type I IFN-mediated sustained immune response. E glycoprotein neutralization or high temperature denaturation and inhibition of Toll-like receptor 7 signalling confirmed the importance of preserving the functional integrity of these key viral molecules during the inactivation procedure and manufacturing process to produce a vaccine able to stimulate strong immune responses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1009505
Number of pages25
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15-Apr-2021

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