35 Scopus citations


The primary two-dose SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine series are strongly immunogenic in humans, but the emergence of highly infectious variants necessitated additional doses and the development of vaccines aimed at the new variants 1–4. SARS-CoV-2 booster immunizations in humans primarily recruit pre-existing memory B cells 5–9. However, it remains unclear whether the additional doses induce germinal centre reactions whereby re-engaged B cells can further mature, and whether variant-derived vaccines can elicit responses to variant-specific epitopes. Here we show that boosting with an mRNA vaccine against the original monovalent SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine or the bivalent B.1.351 and B.1.617.2 (Beta/Delta) mRNA vaccine induced robust spike-specific germinal centre B cell responses in humans. The germinal centre response persisted for at least eight weeks, leading to significantly more mutated antigen-specific bone marrow plasma cell and memory B cell compartments. Spike-binding monoclonal antibodies derived from memory B cells isolated from individuals boosted with either the original SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, bivalent Beta/Delta vaccine or a monovalent Omicron BA.1-based vaccine predominantly recognized the original SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Nonetheless, using a more targeted sorting approach, we isolated monoclonal antibodies that recognized the BA.1 spike protein but not the original SARS-CoV-2 spike protein from individuals who received the mRNA-1273.529 booster; these antibodies were less mutated and recognized novel epitopes within the spike protein, suggesting that they originated from naive B cells. Thus, SARS-CoV-2 booster immunizations in humans induce robust germinal centre B cell responses and can generate de novo B cell responses targeting variant-specific epitopes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)592-598
Number of pages7
Issue number7961
StatePublished - May 18 2023


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