Both natural influenza infection and current seasonal influenza vaccines primarily induce neutralizing antibody responses against highly diverse epitopes within the “head” of the viral hemagglutinin (HA) protein. There is increasing interest in redirecting immunity toward the more conserved HA stem or stalk as a means of broadening protective antibody responses. Here we examined HA stem–specific B cell and T follicular helper (Tfh) cell responses in the context of influenza infection and immunization in mouse and monkey models. We found that during infection, the stem domain was immunologically subdominant to the head in terms of serum antibody production and antigen-specific B and Tfh cell responses. Similarly, we found that HA stem immunogens were poorly immunogenic compared with the full-length HA with abolished sialic acid binding activity, with limiting Tfh cell elicitation a potential constraint to the induction or boosting of anti-stem immunity by vaccination. Finally, we confirm that currently licensed seasonal influenza vaccines can boost preexisting memory responses against the HA stem in humans. An increased understanding of the immune dynamics surrounding the HA stem is essential to inform the design of next-generation influenza vaccines for broad and durable protection.
Hyon-Xhi Tan, Sinthujan Jegaskanda, Jennifer A. Juno, Robyn Esterbauer, Julius Wong, Hannah G. Kelly, Yi Liu, Danielle Tilmanis, Aeron C. Hurt, Jonathan W. Yewdell, Stephen J. Kent, Adam K. Wheatley
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. All accepted letters will be posted on our website within one week of acceptance. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors of all accepted letters will be asked to preview any changes. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were not accepted. As this is a final decision, no appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at email@example.com.