CD4 T follicular helper (Tfh) cells are important for the generation of durable and specific humoral protection against viral infections. The degree to which SARS-CoV-2 infection generates Tfh cells and stimulates the germinal center (GC) response is an important question as we investigate vaccine induced immunity against COVID-19. Here, we report that SARS-CoV-2 infection in rhesus macaques, either infused with convalescent plasma, normal plasma, or receiving no infusion, resulted in transient accumulation of pro-inflammatory monocytes and proliferating Tfh cells with a Th1 profile in peripheral blood. CD4 helper cell responses skewed predominantly toward a Th1 response in blood, lung, and lymph nodes. SARS-CoV-2 Infection induced GC Tfh cells specific for the SARS-CoV-2 spike and nucleocapsid proteins, and a corresponding early appearance of antiviral serum IgG antibodies. Collectively, the data show induction of GC responses in a rhesus model of mild COVID-19.
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Shaan Lakshmanappa, Yashavanth; Elizaldi, Sonny R.; Roh, Jamin W.; Schmidt, Brian A.; Carroll, Timothy D.; Weaver, Kourtney D.; Smith, Justin C.; Verma, Anil; Deere, Jesse D.; Dutra, Joseph; Stone, Mars; Franz, Sergej; Sammak, Rebecca Lee; Olstad, Katherine J.; Rachel Reader, J.; Ma, Zhong Min; Nguyen, Nancy K.; Watanabe, Jennifer; Usachenko, Jodie; and Immareddy, Ramya, "SARS-CoV-2 Induces Robust Germinal Center CD4 T Follicular Helper Cell Responses in Rhesus Macaques" (2021). School of Graduate Studies Faculty Publications. 17.