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The poor efficacy of seasonal influenza virus vaccines is often attributed to pre-existing immunity interfering with the persistence and maturation of vaccine-induced B cell responses. We previously showed that a subset of vaccine-induced B cell lineages are recruited into germinal centers (GCs) following vaccination, suggesting that affinity maturation of these lineages against vaccine antigens can occur. However, it remains to be determined whether seasonal influenza vaccination stimulates additional evolution of vaccine-specific lineages, and previous work has found no significant increase in somatic hypermutation (SHM) among influenza-binding lineages sampled from the blood following seasonal vaccination in humans. Here, we investigate this issue using a phylogenetic test of measurable immunoglobulin sequence evolution. We first validate this test through simulations and survey measurable evolution across multiple conditions. We find significant heterogeneity in measurable B cell evolution across conditions, with enrichment in primary response conditions such as HIV infection and early childhood development. We then show that measurable evolution following influenza vaccination is highly compartmentalized: while lineages in the blood are rarely measurably evolving following influenza vaccination, lineages containing GC B cells are frequently measurably evolving. Many of these lineages appear to derive from memory B cells. We conclude from these findings that seasonal influenza virus vaccination can stimulate additional evolution of responding B cell lineages, and imply that the poor efficacy of seasonal influenza vaccination is not due to a complete inhibition of vaccine-specific B cell evolution.

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computational biology, human, immunology, inflammation, systems biology