Dan R. Littman

New York University

Primary Section: 43, Immunology and Inflammation
Secondary Section: 22, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2004)

Research Interests

My long-standing interest has been in understanding at the molecular level how the vertebrate immune system achieves its diversity of functions and its exquisite specificity. My early research focused on the signaling functions in T cells of the CD4 and CD8 coreceptor molecules, whose expression defines helper versus cytotoxic functions, respectively. This work has evolved in several directions, ranging from gene regulation in T lymphocyte development to how lymphoid organs are induced and to the mechanisms by which the human immunodeficiency virus exploits components of the human immune system. My laboratory identified and characterized a gene silencer that regulates heritable expression of CD4 in cytotoxic T cells. We also identified CD4 and the chemokine receptor CCR5 as the receptor complex used by HIV for entry into T helper cells and macrophages. More recently, we showed that engulfment of HIV into vesicles within dendritic cells, the sentinel cells that usually protect us from infection, permits the virus to more effectively infect T cells. A better understanding of how HIV survives in dendritic cells and traverses them to reach T cells may provide new ammunition to attack drug-resistant viral reservoirs.

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