Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 33785765
Link to DOI – 10.1038/s41467-021-22210-3
Nat Commun 2021 Mar; 12(1): 1961
The pathogenesis of severe COVID-19 reflects an inefficient immune reaction to SARS-CoV-2. Here we analyze, at the single cell level, plasmablasts egressed into the blood to study the dynamics of adaptive immune response in COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care. Before seroconversion in response to SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, peripheral plasmablasts display a type 1 interferon-induced gene expression signature; however, following seroconversion, plasmablasts lose this signature, express instead gene signatures induced by IL-21 and TGF-β, and produce mostly IgG1 and IgA1. In the sustained immune reaction from COVID-19 patients, plasmablasts shift to the expression of IgA2, thereby reflecting an instruction by TGF-β. Despite their continued presence in the blood, plasmablasts are not found in the lungs of deceased COVID-19 patients, nor does patient IgA2 binds to the dominant antigens of SARS-CoV-2. Our results thus suggest that, in severe COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 triggers a chronic immune reaction that is instructed by TGF-β, and is distracted from itself.