The emergency use authorization of two COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in less than a year since the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, represents a landmark in vaccinology1,2. Yet, how mRNA vaccines stimulate the immune system to elicit protective immune responses is unknown. Here we used a systems biological approach to comprehensively profile the innate and adaptive immune responses in 56 healthy volunteers vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine. Vaccination resulted in robust production of neutralizing antibodies (nAbs) against the parent strain and the variant of concern, B.1.351, but no induction of autoantibodies, and significant increases in antigen-specific polyfunctional CD4 and CD8 T cells after the second dose. The innate response induced within the first 2 days of booster vaccination was profoundly increased, relative to the response at corresponding times after priming. Thus, there was a striking increase in the: (i) frequency of CD14+CD16+ inflammatory monocytes; (ii) concentration of IFN- y in the plasma, which correlated with enhanced pSTAT3 and pSTAT1 levels in monocytes and T cells; and (iii) transcriptional signatures of innate responses characteristic of antiviral vaccine responses against pandemic influenza, HIV and Ebola, within 2 days following booster vaccination compared to primary vaccination. Consistent with these observations, single-cell transcriptomics analysis of 242,479 leukocytes demonstrated a ~100-fold increase in the frequency of a myeloid cluster, enriched in a signature of interferon-response transcription factors (TFs) and reduced in AP-1 TFs, one day after secondary immunization, at day 21. Finally, we delineated distinct molecular pathways of innate activation that correlate with CD8 T cell and nAb responses and identified an early monocyte-related signature that was associated with the breadth of the nAb response against the B1.351 variant strain. Collectively, these data provide insights into the immune responses induced by mRNA vaccines and demonstrate their capacity to stimulate an enhanced innate response following booster immunization.
View details for DOI 10.21203/rs.3.rs-438662/v1
View details for PubMedID 34013244
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8132234