Kenneth M. Murphy, MD, PhD
Professor of Pathology and Immunology
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Washington University in St. Louis (WU)
The major theme of the laboratory is the study of lineage commitment programs within the immune system. The vertebrate immune system has innate and adaptive components, differing in the diversity of the molecular targets they recognize. Innate immunity is triggered by relatively few conserved molecular features derived from pathogens. Adaptive immunity is concerned with recognizing a greatly increased spectrum of molecules, through the generation of a highly diverse set of antigen receptors expressed on T and B lymphocytes. Our laboratory is interested in understanding the regulatory mechanisms controlling the development of cell lineages within both arms of the immune response. Specifically, current projects include the development of dendritic cells, macrophages, and neutrophils from common precursors, the transcriptional basis for T helper subset differentiation, and the identification of novel receptors and signaling molecules involved in regulating dendritic cell function. Finally, newer projects include the study of earlier fate decisions during embryonic development, such as the mechanisms that generate mesoderm, from which the entire immune system is derived.