Dorina Avram, PhD

Dorina Avram, PhD
Professor of Medicine
Preeminence Professor (Tenured)
Director, Pulmonary Immunology

Avram Lab: Avram Lab






PhD Oregon State University Genetics
Postdoctoral Fellow Oregon State University, College of Pharmacy Molecular Pharmacology

Research Interests

  • Dorina Avram’s research program is in the field of altered regulatory mechanisms of the immune system in autoimmune diseases and asthma.
  • One research area covers transcriptional control in mature T cells and innate lymphoid cells, with main emphasis on the transcription factor Bcl11b, which Dr. Avram discovered when she was a postdoc with Dr. Mark Leid. Using conditional and inducible knockout mouse models, Avram lab found that Bcl11b plays a crucial role in T cell development, as well as in Thelper cells, cytotoxic T cells, iNKT cells and T regulatory cells. At molecular level, Avram lab demonstrated that Bcl11b functions both as a transcriptional repressor, through association with the transcriptional corepressor complex NuRD, and as a transcriptional activator, through association with transcriptional coactivator complexes containing CBP/p300 HATs. Avram lab continues to investigate the role of Bcl11b in immune populations, using conditional and inducible deletion of the gene in mice and in vitro cellular systems. Specific directions of this area of research are: (a) determining the role of Bcl11b in specific Thelper cells, iNKT cells, T regulatory and innate lymphoid cells, and how alterations in Bcl11b cause immune disorders; (b) understanding the switch signals that confer to Bcl11b transcriptional activation versus transcriptional repression function, and their implications on expression of networks of genes; (c) understanding how Bcl11b cooperates or competes with other lineage specific transcription factors and regulatory complexes to control common target genes or stage specific target genes.
  • Other areas of research, recently initiated, include regulation of Thelper function by ubiquitination and implication in immune disorders.
  • Recently, Avram Lab also developed strategies with clinical potential in treatment of asthma and autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, based on re-routing of the immune cells from the triggered sites to tissues in which the immune cells become harmless.

Professional Societies

  • American Association of Immunologists

Honors and Awards

  • FEBS Fellowship 1990
  • NATO Fellowship 1991
  • IREX Fellowship 1992
  • Soros Foundation Fellowship 1993
  • American Society for Enology and Viticulture Fellowship 1993-1996
  • K01 Career Developmental Award, National Institute of Health, National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, Arthritis Branch 2001-2006
  • American Cancer Society Research Scholar 2004-2009

Grant Support

  • Ongoing Research Support
  • NIH/NIAID: Role of BCL11B in CD4+ T Cells – to study the role of the transcription factor Bcl11b in effector CD4+ T cells and autoimmunity – 2007-2017
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society: A novel ubiquitin ligase with role in EAE severity – 2014-2017
  • NIH/NIAID: Transcriptional control in innate lymphoid type II cells – 2014-2017
  • Completed
  • NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease: A novel zinc finger transcriptional modulator of T cells – 2001-2006
  • Role of BCL11 Transcription Factors in Leukemia and Lymphoma – 2006-2008
  • American Cancer Society: Transcriptional Regulatory Function of the Novel Oncoproteins CTIP/BCL11 – 2004-2009


  • Danielle Califano, Jonathan J. Cho, Qi Yang, Avinash Bhandoola, Hongmin Li and Dorina Avram, Transcription factor Bcl11b controls identity and function of mature innate lymphoid cells type II. Accepted by Immunity, May 2015.
  • Erin Y. Harmon, Van Fronhofer, III, Rebecca S. Keller, Paul J. Feustel, Xinmei Zhu, Hao Xu, Dorina Avram, David M. Jones, Shanmugam Nagarajan and Michelle R. Lennartz, Anti-inflammatory Immune Skewing is Atheroprotective: Apoe-/-FcγRIIb-/- Mice Develop Fibrous Carotid Plaques. J Am Heart Assoc. 2014 Dec 16;3(6). pii: e001232.
  • Dorina Avram & Danielle Callifano, The multifaceted roles of Bcl11b in thymic and peripheral T cells – impact on immune diseases. J Immunol. 2014 Sep 1;193(5):2059-2065.
  • Mohammad Uddin, Yubin Zhang, Jonathan Harton, Katherine MacNamara, Dorina Avram. TNF-a-dependent hematopoiesis following Bcl11b deletion in T cells restricts metastatic melanoma. J Immunol. 2014 Feb 15;192(4):1946-53.
  • Califano D, Van Valkenburgh J, Yager E, O’Connor W, Kennedy J, Avram D. Diverting Thelper cell trafficking through increased plasticity attenuates autoimmune encephalomyelitis. J Clin Invest. 2014 Jan 2;124(1):174-87. (PMID: 24316973).
  • Yubin Zhang, Maura Jones, Gary M. Winslow, Dorina Avram and Katherine C. MacNamara, MyD88-Signaling in CD4 T Cells is Critical for IFNG Production and Hematopoietic Stem and Progenitor Cell Expansion in Response to Intracellular Bacterial Infection. J Immunol. 2013 May 1;190(9):4725-35.
  • Van Valkenburgh J, Albu DI, Bapanpally C, Casanova S, Califano D, Jones DM, Ignatowicz L, Kawamoto S, Fagarasan S, Jenkins NA, Copeland NG, Liu P, Avram D. Critical role of Bcl11b in suppressive function of T regulatory cells and prevention of inflammatory bowel disease. J Exp Med 208(10):2069-2081, 2011.
  • Zhang S, Rozell M, Albu DI, Randall T, Jenkins NA, Copeland NG, Liu P, Avram D: Antigen-specific clonal expansion and cytolytic effector function of CD8+ T lymphocytes depend on the transcription factor Bcl11b. J Exp Med 207(8):1687-99, 2010.
  • Albu DI, Jeffrey Van Valkenburgh, Nicole Morin, Danielle Califano, Jenkins NA, Copeland NG, Liu P, Avram D: Transcription factor Bcl11b controls selection of invariant natural killer T-cells by regulating glycolipid presentation in double-positive thymocytes. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108(15):6211-6, 2011.

For a complete list of the publications,
Visit Pubmed, US National Library of Medicine (NLM)