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Comparative single-cell RNA sequencing analysis of immune response to inactivated vaccine and natural SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Uncovering the immune response to an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine (In-Vac) and natural infection is crucial for comprehending COVID-19 immunology. Here we conducted an integrated analysis of single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) data from serial peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) samples derived from 12 individuals receiving In-Vac compared with those from COVID-19 patients. Our study reveals that In-Vac induces subtle immunological changes in PBMC, including cell proportions and transcriptomes, compared with profound changes for natural infection. In-Vac modestly upregulates IFN-α but downregulates NF-κB pathways, while natural infection triggers hyperactive IFN-α and NF-κB pathways. Both In-Vac and natural infection alter T/B cell receptor repertoires, but COVID-19 has more significant change in preferential VJ gene, indicating a vigorous immune response. Our study reveals distinct patterns of cellular communications, including a selective activation of IL-15RA/IL-15 receptor pathway after In-Vac boost, suggesting its potential role in enhancing In-Vac-induced immunity. Collectively, our study illuminates multifaceted immune responses to In-Vac and natural infection, providing insights for optimizing SARS-CoV-2 vaccine efficacy.

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