Deepta Bhattacharya
Associate Professor, BIO5 Institute
Associate Professor, Genetics - GIDP
Associate Professor, Immunobiology
Associate Professor, Surgery
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 626-8088
Research Interest
Research in the Bhattacharya lab focuses on molecular approaches to direct B cell differentiation to establish immunity to infectious disease, and stem cell differentiation for regenerative medicine. Current projects in the lab include: 1) Understanding the cellular basis of antibody-mediated immunity to variable viruses. After infection or vaccination, B cells that recognize the pathogen proliferate and undergo a massive level of expansion. Upon clearance of the infection a small fraction of the "best" B cells are retained to become memory B cells or long-lived plasma cells. Our recent work has established that memory B cells are excellent at recognizing not only the original pathogen, but also mutant escape variants of the pathogen. In contrast, long-lived plasma cells are highly specific only for the original pathogen. We are studying the transcription factors that regulate the memory B cell vs. long-lived plasma cell fate, and are studying mechanisms to alter this fate to provide effective immunity against mutable viruses such as influenza and Dengue. 2) Identifying molecular regulators of the duration of immunity. Most clinically used vaccines rely on the production of antibodies to confer immunity. The duration of immunity can vary greatly between different vaccines, yet the molecular basis of this remains unknown. Current efforts are focused on the identification of genes that regulate plasma cell lifespan and on the features of the vaccine that confer durable antibody immunity. 3) Engineering human pluripotent stem cells to generate antibody-mediated immunity. A small fraction of patients infected with HIV or dengue virus, or vaccinated against influenza develop remarkable antibodies that neutralize nearly all clinical isolates of these viruses. Yet it is unclear how to induce these types of antibodies in the broader population through standard vaccination. Using novel targeted nuclease technologies, we are engineering human embryonic stem cells to express these antibodies and differentiating them into transplantable long-lived plasma cells. The long-term goal of this project is to provide permanent immunity to recipients of these engineered plasma cells.


Fathman, J. W., Bhattacharya, D., Inlay, M. A., Seita, J., Karsunky, H., & Weissman, I. L. (2011). Identification of the earliest natural killer cell-committed progenitor in murine bone marrow. Blood, 118(20), 5439-47.

Natural killer (NK) cells develop in the bone marrow and are known to gradually acquire the ability to eliminate infected and malignant cells, yet the cellular stages of NK lineage commitment and maturation are incompletely understood. Using 12-color flow cytometry, we identified a novel NK-committed progenitor (pre-NKP) that is a developmental intermediate between the upstream common lymphoid progenitor and the downstream NKP, previously assumed to represent the first stage of NK lineage commitment. Our analysis also refined the purity of NKPs (rNKP) by 6-fold such that 50% of both pre-NKP and rNKP cells gave rise to NKp46+ NK cells at the single-cell level. On transplantation into unconditioned Rag2-/-Il2rγc-/- recipients, both pre-NKPs and rNKPs generated mature NK cells expressing a repertoire of Ly49 family members that degranulated on stimulation ex vivo. Intrathymic injection of these progenitors, however, yielded no NK cells, suggesting a separate origin of thymic NK cells. Unlike the rNKP, the pre-NKP does not express IL-2Rβ (CD122), yet it is lineage committed toward the NK cell fate, adding support to the theory that IL-15 signaling is not required for NK commitment. Taken together, our data provide a high-resolution in vivo analysis of the earliest steps of NK cell commitment and maturation.

Satpathy, A. T., KC, W., Albring, J. C., Edelson, B. T., Kretzer, N. M., Bhattacharya, D., Murphy, T. L., & Murphy, K. M. (2012). Zbtb46 expression distinguishes classical dendritic cells and their committed progenitors from other immune lineages. The Journal of experimental medicine, 209(6), 1135-52.

Distinguishing dendritic cells (DCs) from other cells of the mononuclear phagocyte system is complicated by the shared expression of cell surface markers such as CD11c. In this study, we identified Zbtb46 (BTBD4) as a transcription factor selectively expressed by classical DCs (cDCs) and their committed progenitors but not by plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs), monocytes, macrophages, or other lymphoid or myeloid lineages. Using homologous recombination, we replaced the first coding exon of Zbtb46 with GFP to inactivate the locus while allowing detection of Zbtb46 expression. GFP expression in Zbtb46(gfp/+) mice recapitulated the cDC-specific expression of the native locus, being restricted to cDC precursors (pre-cDCs) and lymphoid organ- and tissue-resident cDCs. GFP(+) pre-cDCs had restricted developmental potential, generating cDCs but not pDCs, monocytes, or macrophages. Outside the immune system, Zbtb46 was expressed in committed erythroid progenitors and endothelial cell populations. Zbtb46 overexpression in bone marrow progenitor cells inhibited granulocyte potential and promoted cDC development, and although cDCs developed in Zbtb46(gfp/gfp) (Zbtb46 deficient) mice, they maintained expression of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor and leukemia inhibitory factor receptors, which are normally down-regulated in cDCs. Thus, Zbtb46 may help enforce cDC identity by restricting responsiveness to non-DC growth factors and may serve as a useful marker to identify rare cDC progenitors and distinguish between cDCs and other mononuclear phagocyte lineages.

Chou, C., Verbaro, D. J., Tonc, E., Holmgren, M., Cella, M., Colonna, M., Bhattacharya, D., & Egawa, T. (2016). The Transcription Factor AP4 Mediates Resolution of Chronic Viral Infection through Amplification of Germinal Center B Cell Responses. Immunity, 45(3), 570-582.

B cells diversify and affinity mature their antigen receptor repertoire in germinal centers (GCs). GC B cells receive help signals during transient interaction with T cells, yet it remains unknown how these transient T-B interactions in the light zone sustain the subsequent proliferative program of selected B cells that occurs in the anatomically distant dark zone. Here, we show that the transcription factor AP4 was required for sustained GC B cell proliferation and subsequent establishment of a diverse and protective antibody repertoire. AP4 was induced by c-MYC during the T-B interactions, was maintained by T-cell-derived interleukin-21 (IL-21), and promoted repeated rounds of divisions of selected GC B cells. B-cell-specific deletion of AP4 resulted in reduced GC sizes and reduced somatic hypermutation coupled with a failure to control chronic viral infection. These results indicate that AP4 integrates T-cell-mediated selection and sustained expansion of GC B cells for humoral immunity.

Bednarski, J. J., Nickless, A., Bhattacharya, D., Amin, R. H., Schlissel, M. S., & Sleckman, B. P. (2012). RAG-induced DNA double-strand breaks signal through Pim2 to promote pre-B cell survival and limit proliferation. The Journal of experimental medicine, 209(1), 11-7.

Interleukin 7 (IL-7) promotes pre-B cell survival and proliferation by activating the Pim1 and Akt kinases. These signals must be attenuated to induce G1 cell cycle arrest and expression of the RAG endonuclease, which are both required for IgL chain gene rearrangement. As lost IL-7 signals would limit pre-B cell survival, how cells survive during IgL chain gene rearrangement remains unclear. We show that RAG-induced DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) generated during IgL chain gene assembly paradoxically promote pre-B cell survival. This occurs through the ATM-dependent induction of Pim2 kinase expression. Similar to Pim1, Pim2 phosphorylates BAD, which antagonizes the pro-apoptotic function of BAX. However, unlike IL-7 induction of Pim1, RAG DSB-mediated induction of Pim2 does not drive proliferation. Rather, Pim2 has antiproliferative functions that prevent the transit of pre-B cells harboring RAG DSBs from G1 into S phase, where these DNA breaks could be aberrantly repaired. Thus, signals from IL-7 and RAG DSBs activate distinct Pim kinase family members that have context-dependent activities in regulating pre-B cell proliferation and survival.

Czechowicz, A., Kraft, D., Weissman, I. L., & Bhattacharya, D. (2007). Efficient transplantation via antibody-based clearance of hematopoietic stem cell niches. Science (New York, N.Y.), 318(5854), 1296-9.

Upon intravenous transplantation, hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) can home to specialized niches, yet most HSCs fail to engraft unless recipients are subjected to toxic preconditioning. We provide evidence that, aside from immune barriers, donor HSC engraftment is restricted by occupancy of appropriate niches by host HSCs. Administration of ACK2, an antibody that blocks c-kit function, led to the transient removal of >98% of endogenous HSCs in immunodeficient mice. Subsequent transplantation of these mice with donor HSCs led to chimerism levels of up to 90%. Extrapolation of these methods to humans may enable mild but effective conditioning regimens for transplantation.