SYSTEMS IMMUNOLOGY OF IMMUNE IMPRINTS INDUCED BY ACUTE VIRAL INFECTIONS
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Upon encountering perturbations such as viral infections, the immune system initiates a cascade of molecular and cellular responses. These alterations may persist even after recovery, resulting in enhanced or diminished response to subsequent stimuli compared to the naïve state. Such persistent changes, referred to as immune imprints or long-term non-specific memory, indicate an incomplete resolution from immunological perturbations. The primary focus of this dissertation is to systemically investigate the immune imprints resulting from acute infections and how they shape the baseline immune status to future heterologous challenges.First, we employed cutting-edge single-cell multi-omics and computational approaches to assess the immune response during the COVID-19 disease course and severity correlates at an unprecedented resolution. We identified gene expression profiles – apoptosis in plasmacytoid dendritic cells and IL-15-linked increase of fatty acid (FA) metabolism in CD56dimCD16hi NK cells – as primary correlates of disease severity. This increase of FA signature with disease severity was also concomitant with an attenuated inflammation, indicating a dysfunctional or exhaustion-like state of these NK cells. While the depressed inflammation signature in severe patients was also found in different cell types near hospitalization, it increased temporally at later time points, indicating a critical late-stage juncture in the disease course. Next, we took the opportunity of the period following the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic to study immune imprints in human cohorts who had recovered from COVID-19 before widespread vaccination and reinfection occurred. We demonstrated that individuals who recovered from mild COVID-19, exhibit distinct immune signatures through single-cell transcriptomic profiling. Male recoverees also showed heightened responses to the seasonal influenza vaccine compared to healthy individuals without a history of COVID-19 and female recoverees. These sex dimorphic imprints highlight the interplay between intrinsic factors like sex and non-intrinsic factors such as prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, in shaping an individual's immune system over time. Lastly, we also investigated the immune imprints after acute viral infection using a controlled experimental mouse model of influenza infection. After examining cellular and gene expression profiles in various organs after the infection, we found persistent changes in both adaptive and innate immune components across multiple organs. Moreover, these changes affected subsequent local IL-17 inflammatory response and secondary heterologous vaccinations in anatomically distinct organs. Together, both human and mouse studies here are important pieces toward an improved understanding of long-term immune imprints after perturbations, which can be leveraged to develop more effective and personalized vaccines and disease treatments.