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.


Purtha, W. E., Swiecki, M., Colonna, M., Diamond, M. S., & Bhattacharya, D. (2012). Spontaneous mutation of the Dock2 gene in Irf5-/- mice complicates interpretation of type I interferon production and antibody responses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(15), E898-904.

Genome-wide studies have identified associations between polymorphisms in the IFN regulatory factor-5 (Irf5) gene and a variety of human autoimmune diseases. Its functional role in disease pathogenesis, however, remains unclear, as studies in Irf5(-/-) mice have reached disparate conclusions regarding the importance of this transcription factor in type I IFN production and antibody responses. We identified a spontaneous genomic duplication and frameshift mutation in the guanine exchange factor dedicator of cytokinesis 2 (Dock2) that has arisen in at least a subset of circulating Irf5(-/-) mice and inadvertently been bred to homozygosity. Retroviral expression of DOCK2, but not IRF-5, rescued defects in plasmacytoid dendritic cell and B-cell development, and Irf5(-/-) mice lacking the mutation in Dock2 exhibited normal plasmacytoid dendritic cell and B-cell development, largely intact type I IFN responses, and relatively normal antibody responses to viral infection. Thus, confirmation of the normal Dock2 genotype in circulating Irf5(-/-) mice is warranted, and our data may partly explain conflicting results in this field.

Purtha, W. E., Tedder, T. F., Johnson, S., Bhattacharya, D., & Diamond, M. S. (2011). Memory B cells, but not long-lived plasma cells, possess antigen specificities for viral escape mutants. The Journal of experimental medicine, 208(13), 2599-606.

Memory B cells (MBCs) and long-lived plasma cells (LLPCs) persist after clearance of infection, yet the specific and nonredundant role MBCs play in subsequent protection is unclear. After resolution of West Nile virus infection in mice, we demonstrate that LLPCs were specific for a single dominant neutralizing epitope, such that immune serum poorly inhibited a variant virus that encoded a mutation at this critical epitope. In contrast, a large fraction of MBC produced antibody that recognized both wild-type (WT) and mutant viral epitopes. Accordingly, antibody produced by the polyclonal pool of MBC neutralized WT and variant viruses equivalently. Remarkably, we also identified MBC clones that recognized the mutant epitope better than the WT protein, despite never having been exposed to the variant virus. The ability of MBCs to respond to variant viruses in vivo was confirmed by experiments in which MBCs were adoptively transferred or depleted before secondary challenge. Our data demonstrate that class-switched MBC can respond to variants of the original pathogen that escape neutralization of antibody produced by LLPC without a requirement for accumulating additional somatic mutations.

Bhattacharya, D., Logue, E. C., Bakkour, S., DeGregori, J., & Sha, W. C. (2002). Identification of gene function by cyclical packaging rescue of retroviral cDNA libraries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 99(13), 8838-43.

Genes regulating responses in mammalian cells are often difficult to identify by functional cloning strategies limited to a single round of selection. Here we describe a strategy, cyclical packaging rescue (CPR), which allows rapid recovery and retransmission of retroviral cDNA libraries. CPR can be used not only with immortalized cell lines such as fibroblasts and Jurkat T cells, but also with primary B lymphocytes, which can be maintained only in short-term cultures. CPR allows for multiple rounds of selection and enrichment to identify cDNAs regulating responses in mammalian cells. Using CPR, five cDNAs were functionally cloned, which conferred protection against tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha)-induced apoptosis in RelA(-/-) fibroblasts. Three of the genes, RelA, cellular FLICE-like inhibitory protein (c-FLIP), and a dominant-negative mutant of TNF receptor 1 arising through CPR afforded strong protection against apoptosis. Two of the genes identified, Dbs and Fas-associated death domain protein (FADD), previously identified as a proapoptotic molecule, afforded partial protection against TNFalpha-induced apoptosis. These results suggest that CPR is a versatile method that permits functional identification of both wild-type and dominant-negative gene products that regulate cellular responses.

Beerman, I., Bhattacharya, D., Zandi, S., Sigvardsson, M., Weissman, I. L., Bryder, D., & Rossi, D. J. (2010). Functionally distinct hematopoietic stem cells modulate hematopoietic lineage potential during aging by a mechanism of clonal expansion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107(12), 5465-70.

Aging of the hematopoietic stem cell compartment is believed to contribute to the onset of a variety of age-dependent blood cell pathophysiologies. Mechanistic drivers of hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) aging include DNA damage accumulation and induction of tumor suppressor pathways that combine to reduce the regenerative capacity of aged HSCs. Such mechanisms do not however account for the change in lymphoid and myeloid lineage potential characteristic of HSC aging, which is believed to be central to the decline of immune competence and predisposition to myelogenous diseases in the elderly. Here we have prospectively isolated functionally distinct HSC clonal subtypes, based on cell surface phenotype, bearing intrinsically different capacities to differentiate toward lymphoid and myeloid effector cells mediated by quantitative differences in lineage priming. Finally, we present data supporting a model in which clonal expansion of a class of intrinsically myeloid-biased HSCs with robust self-renewal potential is a central component of hematopoietic aging.

Bhattacharya, D., Lee, D. U., & Sha, W. C. (2002). Regulation of Ig class switch recombination by NF-kappaB: retroviral expression of RelB in activated B cells inhibits switching to IgG1, but not to IgE. International immunology, 14(9), 983-91.

Mutant NF-kappaB-deficient B cells from knockout mice lacking RelA, p105/p50 or the transactivation domain of c-Rel exhibit distinct and selective cell-intrinsic defects in their ability to undergo class switch recombination (CSR) to specific Ig isotypes. This isotype-specific requirement for particular NF-kappaB transcription factors in B cells activated to undergo CSR is intriguing because the NF-kappaB composition in B cells is also highly regulated and can vary significantly depending upon how B cells are activated. These studies prompted us to test by retroviral transduction of normal B cells whether changes in the NF-kappaB composition in activated B cells could modulate cytokine-driven CSR. RelB, RelA, c-Rel, p50 and p52 were first expressed in lipopolysaccharide-activated primary B cells and then induced by cytokine addition to undergo CSR to IgG1, IgE, IgG2a, IgG2b or IgA. Surprisingly, only retroviral expression of RelB altered CSR, resulting in a 3-fold decrease in CSR to IgG1 induced by IL-4. This effect was isotype specific as RelB expression did not affect CSR to IgE within the same culture or to other isotypes tested. The transactivation domain of RelB was required for inhibition of CSR to IgG1. Expression of p50-RelB or p52-RelB dimers joined covalently by a flexible peptide linker also specifically inhibited IgG1 CSR. RelB-mediated inhibition of IgG1 CSR was associated with a decrease in germline gamma1 transcription, but not with changes in proliferation as assayed by CFSE labeling. Thus, RelB complexes can specifically inhibit CSR to IgG1, but not IgE, in activated, primary B cells.