Tissue-based T cells are important effectors in the prevention and control of mucosal viral infections; less is known about tissue-based B cells. We demonstrate that B cells and antibody-secreting cells (ASCs) are present in inflammatory infiltrates in skin biopsy specimens from study participants during symptomatic herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) reactivation and early healing. Both CD20+ B cells, most of which are antigen inexperienced based on their coexpression of IgD, and ASCs — characterized by dense IgG RNA expression in combination with CD138, IRF4, and Blimp-1 RNA — were found to colocalize with T cells. ASCs clustered with CD4+ T cells, suggesting the potential for crosstalk. HSV-2–specific antibodies to virus surface antigens were also present in tissue and increased in concentration during HSV-2 reactivation and healing, unlike in serum, where concentrations remained static over time. B cells, ASCs, and HSV-specific antibody were rarely detected in biopsies of unaffected skin. Evaluation of samples from serial biopsies demonstrated that B cells and ASCs followed a more migratory than resident pattern of infiltration in HSV-affected genital skin, in contrast to T cells. Together, these observations suggest the presence of distinct phenotypes of B cells in HSV-affected tissue; dissecting their role in reactivation may reveal new therapeutic avenues to control these infections.


Emily S. Ford, Anton M. Sholukh, RuthMabel Boytz, Savanna S. Carmack, Alexis Klock, Khamsone Phasouk, Danica Shao, Raabya Rossenkhan, Paul T. Edlefsen, Tao Peng, Christine Johnston, Anna Wald, Jia Zhu, Lawrence Corey


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