Durable antibody production after vaccination or infection is mediated by long-lived plasma cells (LLPCs). Pathways that specifically allow LLPCs to persist remain unknown. Through bioenergetic profiling, we found that human and mouse LLPCs could robustly engage pyruvate-dependent respiration, whereas their short-lived counterparts could not. LLPCs took up more glucose than did short-lived plasma cells (SLPCs) in vivo, and this glucose was essential for the generation of pyruvate. Glucose was primarily used to glycosylate antibodies, but glycolysis could be promoted by stimuli such as low ATP levels and the resultant pyruvate used for respiration by LLPCs. Deletion of Mpc2, which encodes an essential component of the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier, led to a progressive loss of LLPCs and of vaccine-specific antibodies in vivo. Thus, glucose uptake and mitochondrial pyruvate import prevent bioenergetic crises and allow LLPCs to persist. Immunizations that maximize these plasma cell metabolic properties might thus provide enduring antibody-mediated immunity.
Durable antibody production after vaccination or infection is mediated by long-lived plasma cells (LLPCs), but specific pathways that allow LLPC persistence are unknown. Bhattacharya and colleagues show that LLPCs import and use glucose for antibody glycosylation, but in times of metabolic stress, they divert glucose to generate pyruvate for survival.