Atypical memory B cells are greatly expanded in individuals living in a malaria-endemic area.
Epidemiological observations in malaria endemic areas have long suggested a deficiency in the generation and maintenance of B cell memory to Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) in individuals chronically reinfected with the parasite. Recently, a functionally and phenotypically distinct population of FCRL4(+) hyporesponsive memory B cells (MBCs) was reported to be expanded in HIV-infected individuals with high viral loads. In this study, we provide evidence that a phenotypically similar atypical MBC population is significantly expanded in Pf-exposed Malian adults and children as young as 2 years of age as compared with healthy U.S. adult controls. The number of these atypical MBCs was higher in children with chronic asymptomatic Pf infections compared with uninfected children, suggesting that the chronic presence of the parasite may drive expansion of these distinct MBCs. This is the first description of an atypical MBC phenotype associated with malaria. Understanding the origin and function of these MBCs could be important in informing the design of malaria vaccines.