Utpal Banerjee

Utpal Banerjee


610 Charles E Young Drive East
Mail Code 723905
Los Angeles, CA 90095 610 Charles E Young Drive East
Mail Code 723905
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Fax Number:
(310) 206-3987

Lab Number:


Chair and Professor, Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
Co-Director, Eli & Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research
Professor, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Biological Chemistry
Member, Brain Research Institute, Cell & Developmental Biology GPB Home Area, Genetics & Genomics GPB Home Area, I3T Theme, JCCC Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Program Area, Molecular Pharmacology GPB Home Area

Research Interests

1. Blood Stem Cell Maintenance Hematopoietic stem cells are maintained within a microenvironment where signals from a niche are important for the maintenance of quiescence within a precursor population. Lack of such a niche-derived signal will cause loss of “stemness” resulting in increased proliferation and eventual differentiation. We study this phenomenon in the Drosophila hematopoietic organ using genetic technologies available in this model organism (see Martinez-Agosto et al., Genes & Devl., 2007 for a review). We have shown that the “stemness” of these cells is maintained through the combined action of a Niche Signal, generated by Hedgehog (Hh) (Mandal et al., Nature, 2007), a local signal generated by Wingless/Wnt (Sinenko et al., Dev. Cell., 2009) and a reverse signal from the differentiated cells to the stem cells that we have termed the Equilibrium Signal. Several important concepts underlying Drosophila blood development have allowed us to propose this system as an appropriate genetic model for vertebrate hematopoiesis and these molecular mechanisms are being explored in the laboratory. 2. Stress Response systems Myeloid blood cells are ideal for the study of response to many kinds of stresses. Hypoxia-related factors and free radicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a role both in hematopoietic development and in stress response (Owusu-Ansah and Banerjee, Nature 2009). Similarly, the NF-kB derived inflammatory response plays a major role in the way blood cells respond to injury at distant sites. The emerging view from these studies is that basic developmental mechanisms are co-opted again for stress, injury and inflammatory responses by the myeloid hematopoietic system. Genetic analysis allows us to understand the interrelationship between these important biological phenomena that have great relevance to diseases and disorders in humans. 3. Metabolic control in Cancer pathways In the past, our laboratory has identified components of signal transduction pathways that participate in oncogenesis (see Bonfini et al., Science, 1991; Flores et al., Cell 2000 for examples). We have also studied the role of the mitochondrion in controlling cell-cycle (Owusu-Ansah et al., Nature Genetics, 2008; Mandal et al., Dev. Cell, 2005). When cells become transformed, they choose alternate means of metabolism (a phenomenon referred to as the Warburg effect). We study the effect of signal transduction pathways on the control of cellular metabolism and the proper balance between cellular growth and metabolism that goes awry in Cancer.


Utpal Banerjee is currently a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology at UCLA and Co-Director of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center. In 2000, the University named Utpal as one of the “Best 20 Professors” of the “Bruin Century”. He was further distinguished with the Luckman and Gold Shield Awards, the highest research and teaching awards in any subject, including humanities and social sciences, at UCLA. Dr. Banerjee is among 20 professors nationally to be awarded a $1 million grant by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to creatively improve undergraduate science teaching. The grant has generously funded the UCLA Undergraduate Research Consortium in Functional Genomics (URCFG). Utpal has a joint appointments in Biological Chemistry where he teaches advanced Genetics courses. Utpal received his Ph.D. in Chemistry at Caltech. His successful transition into Biology was earmarked by his postdoctoral research training with Dr. Seymour Benzer at Caltech where he initiated research in molecular neurogenetics of eye development in Drosophila and worked on the sevenless locus. As a scientist and professor, he is a dedicated and an accomplished researcher in the fields of Drosophila genetics and developmental biology. His current research interests are in signal transduction and transcriptional control of neural and hematopoietic development. Earlier work from Utpal’s laboratory identified the son of sevenless (sos) gene that participates in all RTK signaling pathways. Currently his laboratory is identifying novel means by which different signal transduction cascades combine to distinguish between neural and non-neural cell types in the Drosophila eye. They have also made critical discoveries in identifying transcription factors and signaling components that are responsible for the hematopoiesis in Drosophila. Using Drosophila as a genetic model, they hope to identify basic molecular strategies that are conserved in development across species. Prof. Banerjee has authored many publications and review articles. He has served on several NIH Genetics Study Sections and has been a Scientific Advisor to several private companies and foundations. He has contributed prominently to both the academic and scientific community at UCLA. Utpal, his lovely wife, Arpita, and their fantastic kids, Mohini and Vivek, live in Los Angeles.


A selected list of publications: