Whitney Rabacal

Predoctoral Trainee, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology



Office Address:
Medical Center North, Nashville, TN, TN 37221

Whitney Rabacal

 Brief Bio

Whitney Rabacal is a Microbiology & Immunology graduate student who joined the program in July of 2015 under the mentorship of Dr. Eric Sebzda. First, Whitney studied regulatory T cells (Tregs) that are a specialized subset of CD4(+) T cells. They maintain self-tolerance by functionally suppressing autoreactive lymphocytes. They discovered that transcription factor Krüppel-like factor 2 (KLF2) is necessary for the generation of induced/peripheral (i/p) Tregs but not thymus-derived tTregs. Moreover, they found that drugs protecting KLF2 from proteolysis during T-cell activation enhance iTreg development. This study was published in PNAS with Whitney Rabacal as the second author (Pannisatty et al 2014 PNAS). This study identifies the first transcription factor that distinguishes between i/p Treg and tTreg ontogeny and demonstrates that KLF2 is a potential therapeutic target for the production of regulatory T cells. Whitney’s dissertation research project is focused on another new role of KLF2 in migration of Natural Killer (NK) cell and T cell homeostasis. Based on current data, they hypothesize that KLF2 regulates NK cell homeostasis by controlling NK cell migration. Better understanding of this process will determine the role of KLF2 in promoting pathogen clearance and self-tolerance. Ms. Rabacal’s first-author paper on this topic is now under revision for publication in PNAS


Research Focus:

Research Description 

Recent Publications

IL-15 Superagonist-Mediated Immunotoxicity: Role of NK Cells and IFN-γ. Guo Y, Luan L, Rabacal W, Bohannon JK, Fensterheim BA, Hernandez A, Sherwood ER. J Immunol. 2015 Sep 1;195(5):2353-64. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1500300. Epub 2015 Jul 27. PMID: 26216888

KLF2 is a rate-limiting transcription factor that can be targeted to enhance regulatory T-cell production. Pabbisetty SK, Rabacal W, Maseda D, Cendron D, Collins PL, Hoek KL, Parekh VV, Aune TM, Sebzda E. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jul 1;111(26):9579-84. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1323493111. Epub 2014 Jun 16.PMID: 24979767  Free PMC Article

In vitro induction of regulatory CD4+CD8α+ T cells by TGF-β, IL-7 and IFN-γ. Van Kaer L, Rabacal WA, Scott Algood HM, Parekh VV, Olivares-Villagómez D. PLoS One. 2013 Jul 3;8(7):e67821. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067821. Print 2013. PMID: 23844100  Free PMC Article

Aberrant macrophages mediate defective kidney repair that triggers nephritis in lupus-susceptible mice. Iwata Y, Boström EA, Menke J, Rabacal WA, Morel L, Wada T, Kelley VR. J Immunol. 2012 May 1;188(9):4568-80. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1102154. Epub 2012 Mar 30. PMID: 22467656 Free PMC Article

Distinct roles of CSF-1 isoforms in lupus nephritis. Menke J, Iwata Y, Rabacal WA, Basu R, Stanley ER, Kelley VR. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2011 Oct;22(10):1821-33. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2011010038. Epub 2011 Sep 1. PMID: 21885670  Free PMC Article

Circulating CSF-1 promotes monocyte and macrophage phenotypes that enhance lupus nephritis. Menke J, Rabacal WA, Byrne KT, Iwata Y, Schwartz MM, Stanley ER, Schwarting A, Kelley VR. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2009 Dec;20(12):2581-92. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2009050499. Epub 2009 Nov 19. PMID: 19926892  Free PMC Article

CSF-1 signals directly to renal tubular epithelial cells to mediate repair in mice. Menke J, Iwata Y, Rabacal WA, Basu R, Yeung YG, Humphreys BD, Wada T, Schwarting A, Stanley ER, Kelley VR. J Clin Invest. 2009 Aug;119(8):2330-42. doi: 10.1172/JCI39087. Epub 2009 Jul 1. PMID: 19587445  Free PMC Article

Sunlight triggers cutaneous lupus through a CSF-1-dependent mechanism in MRL-Fas(lpr) mice. Menke J, Hsu MY, Byrne KT, Lucas JA, Rabacal WA, Croker BP, Zong XH, Stanley ER, Kelley VR. J Immunol. 2008 Nov 15;181(10):7367-79. PMID:18981160  Free PMC Article

Programmed death ligand 1 regulates a critical checkpoint for autoimmune myocarditis and pneumonitis in MRL mice. Lucas JA, Menke J, Rabacal WA, Schoen FJ, Sharpe AH, Kelley VR. J Immunol. 2008 Aug 15;181(4):2513-21. PMID: 18684942  Free PMC Article

SIFamide peptides in clawed lobsters and freshwater crayfish (Crustacea, Decapoda, Astacidea): a combined molecular, mass spectrometric and electrophysiological investigation. Dickinson PS, Stemmler EA, Cashman CR, Brennan HR, Dennison B, Huber KE, Peguero B, Rabacal W, Goiney CC, Smith CM, Towle DW, Christie AE. Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2008 Apr 1;156(2):347-60. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2008.01.011. Epub 2008 Jan 26. PMID: 18308319