Pregnancy and malaria exposure are associated with changes in the B cell pool and in plasma eotaxin levels
Pregnancy triggers immunological changes aimed to tolerate the fetus, but its impact on B lymphocytes is poorly understood. In addition, exposure to the Plasmodium parasite is associated with altered distribution of peripheral memory B cell (MBC) subsets. To study the combined impact of high malaria exposure and pregnancy in B cell subpopulations, we analyzed PBMCs from pregnant and nonpregnant individuals from a malaria-nonendemic country (Spain) and from a high malaria-endemic country (Papua New Guinea). In the malaria-naive cohorts, pregnancy was associated with a significant expansion of all switched (IgD(-)) MBC and a decrease of naive B cells. Malaria-exposed women had more atypical MBC and fewer marginal zone-like MBC, and their levels correlated with both Plasmodium vivax- and Plasmodium falciparum-specific plasma IgG levels. Classical but not atypical MBC were increased in P. falciparum infections. Moreover, active atypical MBC positively correlated with proinflammatory cytokine plasma concentrations and had lower surface IgG levels than the average. Decreased plasma eotaxin (CCL11) levels were associated with pregnancy and malaria exposure and also correlated with B cell subset frequencies. Additionally, active atypical and active classical MBC expressed higher levels of eotaxin receptor CCR3 than the other B cell subsets, suggesting a chemotactic effect of eotaxin on these B cell subsets. These findings are important to understand immunity to infections like malaria that result in negative outcomes for both the mother and the newborn and may have important implications on vaccine development.