Ken Murphy is an immunologist recognized for his work into the mechanisms of immune cell lineage differentiation. He is known particularly for uncovering the plasticity of these processes, discovering the cytokines and transcription factors that regulate differentiation of T cells, dendritic cells and macrophages. Murphy was born in Nebraska and grew up in Wichita Kansas. He graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas with a degree in Chemistry and from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1984 with a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and M.D., followed by a residency in Pathology at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis. After a postdoctoral fellow with in molecular immunology, he joined the faculty there in 1989.

Research Interests

My research is centered on the mechanisms of development of immune cell lineages. My initial work focused on the processes underlying the plasticity of CD4 T cell responses that adapt to defeat distinct types of pathogens. My laboratory developed systems to track clonal responses under physiologic settings in vitro to allow identification of cytokines, receptors and transcription factors controlling T cell fate choice into diverse phenotypes. We identified the mechanisms that instruct T cell fates, and that act to stabilize these fates or their promote plasticity. Subsequent work focused on how the immune system selects the appropriate instructive signal to induce T cell fates that are appropriately matched to different pathogens. We identified the molecular and genetic basis of distinct classes of dendritic cells that coordinate the detection of and proper instruction to distinct categories of pathogens. Our current work is aimed at defining the precise mechanisms of progenitor diversification that generate this repertoire of dendritic cells.

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Primary Section

Section 43: Immunology and Inflammation