Professor Allison Pettit

Professor

Mater Research Institute-UQ
Faculty of Medicine

Overview

Professor Pettit leads the Bones and Immunology Research Group at Mater Research Institute-UQ and is Director of Biomedical Research for Mater Research. Professor Pettit has led multidisciplinary research discovering intersecting biological mechanisms across the fields of immunology, rheumatology, cancer biology, haematology and bone biology. Professor Pettit is currently a UQ Amplify recipient associated with an ARC Future Fellowship, 2017-2020 and CIA on an NHMRC Ideas Grant, 2022-25. Major contributions led by Professor Pettit include the paradigm shifting discovery of a novel population of resident macrophages, osteal macrophages (osteomacs), and their role in promoting bone formation and bone regeneration after injury. Her team have published over 17 manuscripts based on this original discovery (with over 1700 citations) including translation of this basic research discovery toward eluciating novel disease mechanism from cancer bone metastasis to osteoporosis. This also led to the novel discovery of bone marrow resident macrophage contributions to supporting blood stem cells niches and the key role that these cells play in protecting this vital niche from cancer therapies. Bone marrow and specifically haematopoietic stem cell damage is one of the most serious and life-threatening side effects of cancer therapies. Here discoveries are cited in over 117 patent documents and she is currently collaborating with a major pharmaceutical partner.

Professor Pettit's leadership and achievements have been recognised through multiple awards including the 2019 UQ Faculty of Medicine Leader of the Year (Academic), Women in Technology 2018 Life Sciences Outstanding Achievement Award and becoming a Fellow of the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research. Professor Pettit has been invited to give numerous presentations at national and international conferences including Seoul Symposium on Bone Health, Asia-Pacific League of Associations for Rheumatology Congress and a prestigious American Society of Bone and Mineral Research Meet-the-Professor session. Professor Pettit is and Associate Editor for the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, is an past Council member for the Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society, and chairs or serves on numerous committees including the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes Gender Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. PhD candidates under Professor Pettit's supervision have all been supported by scholarships (including 2 x NHMRC), received numerous local and national awards (e.g. Dr Alexander, ASMR QLD Premier Postgraduate Award, 2011 and Dr Lena Batoon won the UQ Faculty of Medicine Graduate of the Year Award, 2021), all had high quality first author publications at completion and 2 received UQ Dean’s Commendations.

Research Impacts

  • Discovery that the transcription factor RelB is a critical molecular mediator of dendritic cell antigen presentation and extended this to show that RelB expressing dendritic cells have critical roles in the initiation and perpetuation of joint inflammation in inflammatory arthritis. These discoveries were used by my principal HDR supervisor (Professor Ranjeny Thomas; https://researchers.uq.edu.au/researcher/396) as the knowledge platform to develop the first vaccine therapy for rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Demonstration that RANKL is the essential and rate limiting cytokine required for osteoclast formation and focal bone erosion in inflammatory arthritis. This research output influenced pharmaceutical industry development of the blockbuster drug Denosumab.
  • Leadership of the paradigm shifting discovery of a novel population of resident macrophages, osteal macrophages (osteomacs), and their novel role in promoting osteoblastic bone formation and bone regeneration after injury. This has completely changed how the bone and mineral/orthopaedic research field views macrophage contributions to bone health and disease and has influence parallel fields including tissue regeneration and biomaterials.
  • Discovery that macrophages regulate haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) niche homeostasis. The landmark paper on which I am co-first author is a Web of Science highly cited paper (top 1% or research outputs) that has been cited by papers spanning 46 research fields. We have since extended this discovery to demonstrate that resident macrophage resilience to lethal radiation is essential for bone marrow recovery and successful HSC engraftment and haematopoietic reconstitution post-HSC transplantation (senior author manuscript in Blood, 2018).
  • Exposed that resident tissue macropahges are fragmented during tissue single cell suspension generation, leaving behind encapsulated remnants of themselves that have detectable cell membrane proteins, intracellur proteins and reporter molecules and RNAs. This undermindes the accuracy of burgeoning high parameter technologies focussed on single cell analysis (e.g. flow cytometry, single cell RNAseq, CITESeq, etc) as depending on the tissue disaggregation and analysis strategy, macrophages are under-represented relative to their abundance in tissues and/or macrophage-expressed genes are mistakenly attributed to non-macrophage cells and vice versa

Qualifications

  • PhD, The University of Queensland
  • BSc(Hons), Griffith University

Publications

View all Publications

Available Projects

  • Project only open to Australian Domestic Applicants at this time with competitive stipend on offer.

    Analysis of single cell preparations from tissues is a mainstay of biological discovery research. Particularly in the current era of costly investment in increasingly high dimensional analysis of single cell samples toward generation of publicly available data sets. The team exposed an unrecognised technical phenomenon that has high potential to substantively compromise single cell data accuracy across a broad range of research fields including immunology and haematology. Specifically, tissue resident macrophages are fragmented during haematopoietic single cell suspension preparation and leave behind encapsulated remnants containing membrane and cytoplasmic molecules attached to other cells they were interacting with in situ. This phenomenon profoundly compromises accurate analysis of the data generated. Using this unique perspective, the project aims to 1) expose how widespread this phenomenon is in a diverse range of tissues across age; 2) develop optimised approaches to eliminate macrophage fragmentation during haematopoietic tissue single cell preparation; and 3) take advantage of this technical phenomenon to achieve a substantive knowledge gain in understanding bone marrow macrophage specialisation.

    The outcome of this research is a broad spectrum increase in the fidelity of biology research that utilises this common approach. This will elevate translatability of research outcomes and ultimately public confidence in the Australian biology research sector. It will create opportunity to collaborate with industry toward improved development of relevant reagents and instrument technology and inform development of digital tools to deconvolute this phenomenon when analysing big data sets.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book Chapter

  • Pettit, Allison R., Cavanagh, Lois, Boyce, Amanda, Padmanabha, Jagadish, Peng, Judy and Thomas, Ranjeny. (2007). Identification and isolation of synovial dendritic cells. Arthritis Research Methods and Protocols. (pp. 165-181) edited by Andrew P. Cope. Totowa, N.J., U.S.A.: Humana Press Inc.

  • Pettit, Allison R. and Gravallese, E. M. (2007). Osteoprotegerin. Contemporary Targeted Therapies in Rheumatology. (pp. 251-264) edited by Peter E. Lipsky and Josef S. Smolen. London, United Kingdom: Informa Healthcare.

  • Pettit, Allison R. and Gravellese, Ellen M. (2005). Pathogenesis of focal bone loss in inflammatory arthritis. Bone Disease in Rheumatology. (pp. 15-22) edited by Maricic, Michael and Gluck, Oscar S.. Arizona, USA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

  • Pettit, A. R. and Gravellese, E. M. (2003). Osteoprotegerin. Targeted therapies in rheumatology. (pp. 359-377) edited by Josef S. Smolen and Peter E. Lipsky. London & New York: Martin Dunitz / Taylor & Francis.

  • Pettit, A. R., Cavanagh, L. L. and Thomas, R. (2001). Identification and isolation of synovial dendritic cells. Dendritic Cell Protocols. (pp. 175-187) edited by S. P. Robinson and A. J. Stagg. Totowa USA: Humana Press. doi: 10.1385/1-59259-150-7:175

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Project only open to Australian Domestic Applicants at this time with competitive stipend on offer.

    Analysis of single cell preparations from tissues is a mainstay of biological discovery research. Particularly in the current era of costly investment in increasingly high dimensional analysis of single cell samples toward generation of publicly available data sets. The team exposed an unrecognised technical phenomenon that has high potential to substantively compromise single cell data accuracy across a broad range of research fields including immunology and haematology. Specifically, tissue resident macrophages are fragmented during haematopoietic single cell suspension preparation and leave behind encapsulated remnants containing membrane and cytoplasmic molecules attached to other cells they were interacting with in situ. This phenomenon profoundly compromises accurate analysis of the data generated. Using this unique perspective, the project aims to 1) expose how widespread this phenomenon is in a diverse range of tissues across age; 2) develop optimised approaches to eliminate macrophage fragmentation during haematopoietic tissue single cell preparation; and 3) take advantage of this technical phenomenon to achieve a substantive knowledge gain in understanding bone marrow macrophage specialisation.

    The outcome of this research is a broad spectrum increase in the fidelity of biology research that utilises this common approach. This will elevate translatability of research outcomes and ultimately public confidence in the Australian biology research sector. It will create opportunity to collaborate with industry toward improved development of relevant reagents and instrument technology and inform development of digital tools to deconvolute this phenomenon when analysing big data sets.