Alissa C. Rothchild

Alissa C. Rothchild, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Office phone: 413-545-2573

Email: arothchild [at] umass [dot] edu

Office location: 427S ISB

Mailing address:

661 North Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA 01003

PhD – Harvard University, 2014
Postdoctoral Training: Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Seattle, WA

Lab website:

The Rothchild laboratory focuses on the innate immune responses in the lung, studying how alveolar macrophages regulate inflammation at the airway-tissue interface. Positioned at the pulmonary mucosal barrier, alveolar macrophages are often the first cells to take up inhaled pathogens, performing a critical function as immune sentinels of the lung. In this role, alveolar macrophages must rapidly sense foreign pathogens and alert other immune cells to assist in host defense. In addition, alveolar macrophages must perform an essential homeostatic role clearing debris and dead cells from the airway without triggering excessive inflammation, yet it is unknown how alveolar macrophages balance these two seemingly opposing functions.

Dual Roles for Alveolar Macrophages

We study the role of alveolar macrophages during Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection, a respiratory pathogen that kills almost 1.5 million people each year and is the leading cause of infection-related death worldwide. Alveolar macrophages play a unique role during Mtb infection, because they are the very first cell to become infected after aerosol transmission and remain the dominant cell type infected through the first 10 days. Therefore, the speed and quality of the response of these macrophages influence disease outcome.


Our previous work found that alveolar macrophages initially respond to Mtb in a non-inflammatory manner, which is dependent on expression of the transcription factor Nrf2. Nrf2 is a master regulator for an antioxidant/oxidative stress response that regulates pathways such as glutathione metabolism and antioxidant production. Mtb-infected cells must eventually initiate innate cell recruitment and priming of the adaptive response, and the molecular basis for these events remains poorly understood. Using Nrf2 conditional knock-out strains and Nrf2 chemical agonists and antagonists, we aim to characterize how the early induction of a cell protective program by Nrf2 prevents alveolar macrophages from mounting a pro-inflammatory response to Mtb infection, delaying subsequent immune events, and leading to impaired bacterial control. We also aim to understand how regulation of pulmonary inflammation by Nrf2 might be applicable to other respiratory infections and inflammatory conditions.

Mtb-infected cell

Other projects in the laboratory are focused on understanding how alveolar macrophages integrate signals from airborne particulates and systemic inflammation and characterizing the regulatory pathways that assist alveolar macrophages in maintaining pulmonary homeostasis, allowing for sufficient immune responses to infection while preventing unnecessary pathology and lung damage. While our work focuses on this balance during Mtb infection, these pathways and regulatory networks likely play a role in maintaining pulmonary homeostasis during other respiratory infections, including SARS-CoV-2, as well as in non-communicable inflammatory conditions such as COPD and asthma.

Lim PN, Cervantes MM, Pham LK, Rothchild AC.  2021.  Alveolar macrophages: novel therapeutic targets for respiratory diseases. Expert Reviews in Molecular Medicine. 23
Nemeth J, Olson GS, Rothchild AC, Jahn AN, Mai D, Duffy FJ, Delahaye JL, Srivatsan S, Plumlee CR, Urdahl KB et al..  2020.  Contained Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection induces concomitant and heterologous protection. PLOS Pathogens. 16:e1008655.
Rothchild AC, Olson GS, Nemeth J, Amon LM, Mai D, Gold ES, Diercks AH, Aderem A.  2019.  Alveolar macrophages generate a noncanonical NRF2-driven transcriptional response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis in vivo. Science Immunology. 4:eaaw6693.
Peterson EJR, Bailo R, Rothchild AC, Arrieta-Ortiz ML, Kaur A, Pan M, Mai D, Abidi AA, Cooper C, Aderem A et al..  2019.  Path-seq identifies an essential mycolate remodeling program for mycobacterial host adaptation. Molecular Systems Biology. 15
Rothchild AC, Stowell B, Goyal G, Nunes-Alves C, Yang Q, Papavinasasundaram K, Sassetti CM, Dranoff G, Chen X, Lee J et al..  2017.  Role of Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor Production by T Cells during Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection. {mBio}. 8
Rothchild AC, Sissons JR, Shafiani S, Plaisier C, Min D, Mai D, Gilchrist M, Peschon J, Larson RP, Bergthaler A et al..  2016.  MiR-155–regulated molecular network orchestrates cell fate in the innate and adaptive immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 113:E6172–E6181.
Nunes-Alves C, Booty MG, Carpenter SM, Rothchild AC, Martin CJ, Desjardins D, Steblenko K, Kløverpris HN, Madansein R, Ramsuran D et al..  2015.  Human and Murine Clonal CD8+ T Cell Expansions Arise during Tuberculosis Because of TCR Selection. PLoS Pathogens. 11:e1004849.
Rothchild AC, Jayaraman P, Nunes-Alves C, Behar SM.  2014.  iNKT Cell Production of GM-CSF Controls Mycobacterium tuberculosis. PLoS Pathogens. 10:e1003805.
Nunes-Alves C, Booty MG, Carpenter SM, Jayaraman P, Rothchild AC, Behar SM.  2014.  In search of a new paradigm for protective immunity to TB. Nature Reviews Microbiology. 12:289–299.
Zhang Y J, Reddy M C, Ioerger T R, Rothchild A C, Dartois V, Schuster B M, Trauner A, Wallis D, Galaviz S, Huttenhower C et al..  2013.  Tryptophan Biosynthesis Protects Mycobacteria from CD4 T-Cell-Mediated Killing. Cell. 155:1296–1308.
Tatituri RVV, Watts GFM, Bhowruth V, Barton N, Rothchild A, Hsu F-F, Almeida CF, Cox LR, Eggeling L, Cardell S et al..  2013.  Recognition of microbial and mammalian phospholipid antigens by NKT cells with diverse TCRs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 110:1827–1832.
Baker BM, Block BL, Rothchild AC, Walker BD.  2008.  Elite control of HIV infection: implications for vaccine design. Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy. 9:55–69.
Name Phone Office
Lim , Pamelia Graduate Student - MCB 413-545-5561 ISB 460
Pham , Linh Graduate Student, ABBS program ISB 460
Montserrat Cervantes Palacios , Maritza Research Fellow 413-545-5543 ISB 460
Doherty , Sydney Undergraduate student research assistant 413-545-2573 ISB 460
Genium , Brenda Undergraduate student research assistant 413-545-2573 ISB 460
Former Lab Personnel