Assoc. Prof. Dr. Duygu Uçar

  • The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine

Title: Sex differences in vaccine responses


Older adults are at high risk for morbidity and mortality from pneumococcus infections. Two vaccines are available to protect high-risk groups: T-cell-independent capsular polysaccharide Pneumovax® and T-cell-dependent protein-polysaccharide conjugate Prevnar®. How older adults respond to these vaccines and whether there are pre-vaccination predictors for vaccine responsiveness is poorly understood. For this, we characterized antibody responses and peripheral blood leukocyte composition using flow cytometry and RNA-seq, in healthy older adults before and after vaccination with Prevnar (n=20) or Pneumovax (n=19). The vaccines induced comparable serological responses and increases in the number of ICOS+ T follicular helper cells. A shared plasmablast transcriptional signature was induced by both vaccines ten days after vaccination, which is distinct from influenza vaccine responses. Importantly, the pre-vaccination (baseline) ratio of Th1/Th17 cells predicted responsiveness to Prevnar but not to Pneumovax. Interestingly, women had higher levels of Th1/Th17; and responded stronger to Prevnar compared to men.


Dr. Ucar earned her B.S. degree in Computer Engineering from Bilkent University followed by  her Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Ohio State University. She conducted postdoctoral studies  at University of Iowa and Stanford University, during which she developed computational methods  to discover cell-specific epigenomic patterns from ChIP-seq datasets. In 2013, she launched her  laboratory at The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine (JAX-GM). The overarching goal of her  lab is to uncover how epigenomic landscape of human cells -especially immune cells- are  remodeled and disrupted with aging and aging-related diseases. She also studies how genetic  variants impact epigenomic landscapes of human cells in the context of complex diseases, e.g.,  Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). Towards this goal, she combines advanced computational techniques with  state-of-the art NGS approaches (e.g., ATAC-seq, CITE-seq).