Bhattacharya Awarded NIEHS Grant to Study TCDD-Induced Changes in Gene Expression

August 18, 2020

IIT-affiliated faculty member, Dr. Sudin Bhattacharya, was recently awarded a $2,355,648 grant from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences for his project, "Integrative Transcriptional and Epigenomic Modeling of Xenobiotic-Activated Gene Regulatory Networks." Bhattacharya, in collaboration with Drs. Suresh Cuddapah, Norbert Kaminski, Timothy Zacharewski, and Jianrong Wang, will conduct this research over the next five years.

“Much remains unknown about how transcriptional regulatory proteins activated by industrial pollutants find their appropriate binding sites in the genome and regulate target genes,” explained Bhattacharya. “Using the AHR as an example of an inducible protein, we will identify mechanisms of genome-wide binding and target gene regulation both from neighboring and distal binding sites in liver and immune cells.”

Human exposure to the highly toxic compound 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) and other dioxin-like chemicals remain a public health concern, especially for vulnerable populations like infants. While most biological effects of TCDD are known to be mediated by the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), the identity of specific genes connecting AHR activation to toxic outcomes of TCDD exposure remains unknown. Bhattacharya’s project will combine functional genomic experiments, computational modeling, and targeted epigenome editing to map AHR-mediated gene regulatory networks and predict TCDD-induced changes in gene expression in mouse and human liver and B cells.

Bhattacharya is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at MSU. Bhattacharya is broadly interested in several areas of computational toxicology. A major focus of his work is the application of computational methods to study the signaling and transcriptional regulatory networks that underlie the determination of cell fate, and the perturbation of these networks by environmental pollutants like dioxin. Specifically, he is interested in integrating diverse genomic data sets to map and model transcriptional regulatory networks and their environmental perturbation in the immune system and the liver. Bhattacharya relies primarily on mathematical and statistical modeling as a research tool and works in close collaboration with experimental scientists.