Nitasha R. Bennett 

Nitasha R. Bennett

Degree Program: Chemistry
Faculty Supervisor: Laura L. Kiessling
Phone: (608) 262-9234



Current Research

Targeting B cell antigen presentation with synthetic multivalent ligands. B lymphocytes are activated towards an adapative immune response through integration of two signals: antigen binding to the B cell receptor (BCR) and recruitment of CD4+ T cell. The BCR plays a complex role in this process; mediating both signal transduction in response to antigen binding and presentation of antigen onto MHC class II molecules. Identifying the molecular interactions between antigen and the BCR that facilitate this process is important for designing next-generation vaccines. Our group has shown that multivalent BCR ligand derived from ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) behaves as synthetic antigen: effectively clustering the BCR and activating B cell signaling. We hypothesized that further functionalization of the synthetic scaffold with antigenic peptide would be sufficient for antigen presentation. We have engineered multivalent ligand bearing protease-sensitive peptide cargo and have shown it to activate signaling through the BCR and to deliver peptide for MHCII presentation to T cell. Our data validates a system wherein antigen parameters can be fine-tuned using synthetic chemistry and the effect on B cell signaling and antigen presentation measured quantitatively. Such a system should provide clues for designing synthetic vaccines capable of signal inputs that maximize the B cell immune response.


Gainer MJ, Bennett NR, Takahashi Y, Looper RE. Regioselective Rh(II)-catalyzed hydroaminations of propargylguanidines. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2011, Volume 50, Issue 3, pages 684–87.

Malenke JR, Newbold N, Clayton DH. Condition-specific competition governs the geographic distribution and diversity of parasites. The American Naturalist 2011, 177(4):522-34.

Abstract (PDF)

Resume (PDF)





Biochemistry Department
433 Babcock Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1544

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