Recovery from measles results in life-long protective immunity. To understand induction of long-term immunity, rhesus macaques were studied for 6 months after infection with wild-type measles virus (MeV). Infection caused viremia and rash, with clearance of infectious virus by day 14. MeV RNA persisted in PBMCs for 30–90 days and in lymphoid tissue for 6 months most often in B cells but was rarely detected in BM. Antibody with neutralizing activity and binding specificity for MeV nucleocapsid (N), hemagglutinin (H), and fusion proteins appeared with the rash and avidity matured over 3–4 months. Lymph nodes had increasing numbers of MeV-specific antibody-secreting cells (ASCs) and germinal centers with late hyalinization. ASCs appeared in circulation with the rash and continued to appear along with peripheral T follicular helper cells for the study duration. ASCs in lymph nodes and PBMCs produced antibody against both H and N, with more H-specific ASCs in BM. During days 14–21, 20- to 100-fold more total ASCs than MeV-specific ASCs appeared in circulation, suggesting mobilization of preexisting ASCs. Therefore, persistence of MeV RNA in lymphoid tissue was accompanied by continued germinal center formation, ASC production, avidity maturation, and accumulation of H-specific ASCs in BM to sustain neutralizing antibody and protective immunity.
Ashley N. Nelson, Wen-Hsuan W. Lin, Rupak Shivakoti, Nicole E. Putnam, Lisa Mangus, Robert J. Adams, Debra Hauer, Victoria K. Baxter, Diane E. Griffin