Ryan O'Connell, PhD

Research Interests

  • Immunology
  • T Cell Biology
  • Tumor Microenvironment
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
  • Inflammation
  • Cellular Immunology, Macrophage Functions


Lab Website


  • English

Academic Information

  • Departments: Pathology - Associate Professor
  • Divisions: Microbiology and Immunology
  • Cancer Center Programs: Nuclear Control of Cell Growth & Differentiation

Academic Office Information

  • 801-581-4390
  • Emma Eccles Jones Medical Research Building
    Microbiology and Immunology
    15 N Medical Dr E, Room: 2100
    Salt Lake City, UT

Email: ryan.oconnell@path.utah.edu

Academic Bio

I am currently an Associate Professor at the University of Utah in the Department of Pathology. My postdoctoral studies were performed in David Baltimore’s laboratory at the California Institute of Technology where I began working in the area of microRNAs following my graduate training in Immunology at UCLA (mentored by Genhong Cheng). My research has since been focused on studying the roles of microRNAs in regulating both physiological and pathological hematopoietic development in mammals, with a focus on inflammation and cancer. My work, which has led to the publication of many high impact primary research manuscripts and several review articles on this topic, has contributed to our current understanding of how microRNAs influence the development and function of immune cells. Since moving to the University of Utah in August of 2011, I have established an independent research program in the Division of Microbiology and Immunology (within the Department of Pathology). We are working towards a greater understanding of how noncoding RNAs regulate inflammatory responses, with an emphasis on pathways that are relevant to human disease.

Education History

Type School Degree
Postdoctoral Fellowship California Institute of Technology
Molecular Immunology
Postdoctoral Fellow
Postdoctoral Fellowship University of California at Los Angeles
Laboratory of Genhong Cheng
Postdoctoral Fellow
Doctoral Training University of California, Los Angeles
Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics
Graduate Training University of the Pacific
Undergraduate California Lutheran University

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  1. Alexander M, Hu R, Runtsch MC, Kagele DA, Mosbruger TL, Tolmachova T, Seabra MC, Round JL, Ward DM, OConnell RM (2015). Exosome-delivered microRNAs modulate the inflammatory response to endotoxin. Nat Commun, 6, 7321.
  2. Runtsch MC, Hu R, Alexander M, Wallace J, Kagele D, Petersen C, Valentine JF, Welker NC, Bronner MP, Chen X, Smith DP, Ajami NJ, Petrosino JF, Round JL, OConnell RM (2015). MicroRNA-146a constrains multiple parameters of intestinal immunity and increases susceptibility to DSS colitis. Oncotarget, 6(30), 28556-72.
  3. Lochhead RB, Ma Y, Zachary JF, Baltimore D, Zhao JL, Weis JH, OConnell RM, Weis JJ (2014). MicroRNA-146a provides feedback regulation of lyme arthritis but not carditis during infection with Borrelia burgdorferi. PLoS Pathog, 10(6), e1004212.
  4. Hu R, Kagele DA, Huffaker TB, Runtsch MC, Alexander M, Liu J, Bake E, Su W, Williams MA, Rao DS, Moller T, Garden GA, Round JL, OConnell RM (2014). miR-155 promotes T follicular helper cell accumulation during chronic, low-grade inflammation. Immunity, 41(4), 605-19.
  5. Zhao JL, Ma C, OConnell RM, Mehta A, DiLoreto R, Heath JR, Baltimore D (2014). Conversion of danger signals into cytokine signals by hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells for regulation of stress-induced hematopoiesis. Cell Stem Cell, 14(4), 445-59.
  6. Hu R, Wallace J, Dahlem TJ, Grunwald DJ, OConnell RM (2013). Targeting human microRNA genes using engineered Tal-effector nucleases (TALENs). PLoS One, 8(5), e63074.
  7. Hu R, Huffaker TB, Kagele DA, Runtsch MC, Bake E, Chaudhuri AA, Round JL, OConnell RM (2013). MicroRNA-155 confers encephalogenic potential to Th17 cells by promoting effector gene expression. J Immunol, 190(12), 5972-80.
  8. Zhao JL, Rao DS, OConnell RM, Garcia-Flores Y, Baltimore D (2013). MicroRNA-146a acts as a guardian of the quality and longevity of hematopoietic stem cells in mice. Elife, 2, e00537.
  9. Chaudhuri AA, So AY, Mehta A, Minisandram A, Sinha N, Jonsson VD, Rao DS, OConnell RM, Baltimore D (2012). Oncomir miR-125b regulates hematopoiesis by targeting the gene Lin28A. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 109(11), 4233-8.
  10. Zhao JL, Rao DS, Boldin MP, Taganov KD, OConnell RM, Baltimore D (2011). NF-kappaB dysregulation in microRNA-146a-deficient mice drives the development of myeloid malignancies. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 108(22), 9184-9.
  11. Rao DS, OConnell RM, Chaudhuri AA, Garcia-Flores Y, Geiger TL, Baltimore D (2010). MicroRNA-34a perturbs B lymphocyte development by repressing the forkhead box transcription factor Foxp1. Immunity, 33(1), 48-59.
  12. OConnell RM, Chaudhuri AA, Rao DS, Gibson WS, Balazs AB, Baltimore D (2010). MicroRNAs enriched in hematopoietic stem cells differentially regulate long-term hematopoietic output. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 107(32), 14235-40.
  13. OConnell RM, Kahn D, Gibson WS, Round JL, Scholz RL, Chaudhuri AA, Kahn ME, Rao DS, Baltimore D (2010). MicroRNA-155 promotes autoimmune inflammation by enhancing inflammatory T cell development. Immunity, 33(4), 607-19.
  14. OConnell RM, Chaudhuri AA, Rao DS, Baltimore D (2009). Inositol phosphatase SHIP1 is a primary target of miR-155. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 106(17), 7113-8.
  15. OConnell RM, Rao DS, Chaudhuri AA, Boldin MP, Taganov KD, Nicoll J, Paquette RL, Baltimore D (2008). Sustained expression of microRNA-155 in hematopoietic stem cells causes a myeloproliferative disorder. J Exp Med, 205(3), 585-94.
  16. OConnell RM, Taganov KD, Boldin MP, Cheng G, Baltimore D (2007). MicroRNA-155 is induced during the macrophage inflammatory response. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 104(5), 1604-9.
  17. Miller LS, OConnell RM, Gutierrez MA, Pietras EM, Shahangian A, Gross CE, Thirumala A, Cheung AL, Cheng G, Modlin RL (2006). MyD88 mediates neutrophil recruitment initiated by IL-1R but not TLR2 activation in immunity against Staphylococcus aureus. Immunity, 24(1), 79-91.
  18. Doyle SE, OConnell RM, Miranda GA, Vaidya SA, Chow EK, Liu PT, Suzuki S, Suzuki N, Modlin RL, Yeh WC, Lane TF, Cheng G (2004). Toll-like receptors induce a phagocytic gene program through p38. J Exp Med, 199(1), 81-90.
  19. OConnell RM, Saha SK, Vaidya SA, Bruhn KW, Miranda GA, Zarnegar B, Perry AK, Nguyen BO, Lane TF, Taniguchi T, Miller JF, Cheng G (2004). Type I interferon production enhances susceptibility to Listeria monocytogenes infection. J Exp Med, 200(4), 437-45.
  20. Joseph SB, Bradley MN, Castrillo A, Bruhn KW, Mak PA, Pei L, Hogenesch J, OConnell RM, Cheng G, Saez E, Miller JF, Tontonoz P (2004). LXR-dependent gene expression is important for macrophage survival and the innate immune response. Cell, 119(2), 299-309.
  21. Doyle S, Vaidya S, OConnell R, Dadgostar H, Dempsey P, Wu T, Rao G, Sun R, Haberland M, Modlin R, Cheng G (2002). IRF3 mediates a TLR3/TLR4-specific antiviral gene program. Immunity, 17(3), 251-63.


  1. Alexander M, OConnell RM (2015). Noncoding RNAs and chronic inflammation: Micro-managing the fire within. [Review]. BioEssays, 37(9)(Sep), 1005-15.
  2. Runtsch MC, Round JL, OConnell RM (2014). MicroRNAs and the regulation of intestinal homeostasis. [Review]. Front Genet, 5, 347.
  3. Hu R, OConnell RM (2013). MicroRNA control in the development of systemic autoimmunity. [Review]. Arthritis Research & Therapy, 15(1), 202.
  4. OConnell RM, Rao DS, Baltimore D (2012). microRNA regulation of inflammatory responses. [Review]. Annu Rev Immunol, 30, 295-312.
  5. OConnell RM, Baltimore D (2012). MicroRNAs and hematopoietic cell development. [Review]. Curr Top Dev Biol, 99, 145-74.
  6. OConnell RM, Zhao JL, Rao DS (2011). MicroRNA function in myeloid biology. [Review]. Blood, 118(11), 2960-9.
  7. OConnell RM, Rao DS, Chaudhuri AA, Baltimore D (2010). Physiological and pathological roles for microRNAs in the immune system. [Review]. Nat Rev Immunol, 10(2), 111-22.


  1. Huffaker TB, OConnell RM (2015). miR-155-Socs1 as a Functional Axis: Satisfying the Burden of Proof. Immunity, 43(1)(Jul 21), 3-4.
  2. OConnell RM (2012). MicroRNAs function on a new level. Blood, 119(17), 3875-6.