Dan R Littman

Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, South Holland, Netherlands

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Publications (310)4507.3 Total impact

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    Liang Zhou, Mark M W Chong, Dan R Littman
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    ABSTRACT: The differentiation of naive CD4(+) T cells into lineages with distinct effector functions has been considered to be an irreversible event. T helper type 1 (Th1) cells stably express IFN-gamma, whereas Th2 cells express IL-4. The discovery and investigation of two other CD4(+) T cell subsets, induced regulatory T (iTreg) cells and Th17 cells, has led to a rethinking of the notion that helper T cell subsets represent irreversibly differentiated endpoints. Accumulating evidence suggests that CD4(+) T cells, particularly iTreg and Th17 cells, are more plastic than previously appreciated. It appears that expression of Foxp3 by iTreg cells or IL-17 by Th17 cells may not be stable and that there is a great degree of flexibility in their differentiation options. Here, we will discuss recent findings that demonstrate the plasticity of CD4(+) T cell differentiation and the biological implications of this flexibility.
    Immunity 06/2009; 30(5):646-55. · 19.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: IL-17-producing CD4(+) T helper (Th17) cells have recently been defined as a unique subset of proinflammatory helper cells whose development depends on signaling initiated by IL-6 and TGF-beta, autocrine activity of IL-21, activation of STAT3, and induction of the orphan nuclear receptor RORgammat. The maintenance, expansion, and further differentiation of the committed Th17 cells depend on IL-1beta and IL-23. IL-17 was originally found produced by circulating human CD45RO(+) memory T cells. A recent study found that human Th17 memory cells selectively express high levels of CCR6. In this study, we report that human peripheral blood and lymphoid tissue contain a significant number of CD4(+)FOXP3(+) T cells that express CCR6 and have the capacity to produce IL-17 upon activation. These cells coexpress FOXP3 and RORgammat transcription factors. The CD4(+)FOXP3(+)CCR6(+) IL-17-producing cells strongly inhibit the proliferation of CD4(+) responder T cells. CD4(+)CD25(high)-derived T-cell clones express FOXP3, RORgammat, and IL-17 and maintain their suppressive function via a cell-cell contact mechanism. We further show that human CD4(+)FOXP3(+)CCR6(-) regulatory T (Treg) cells differentiate into IL-17 producer cells upon T-cell receptor stimulation in the presence of IL-1beta, IL-2, IL-21, IL-23, and human serum. This, together with the finding that human thymus does not contain IL-17-producing Treg cells, suggests that the IL-17(+)FOXP3(+) Treg cells are generated in the periphery. IL-17-producing Treg cells may play critical roles in antimicrobial defense, while controlling autoimmunity and inflammation.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 04/2009; 106(12):4793-8. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    Liang Zhou, Dan R Littman
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    ABSTRACT: Upon encountering antigen in the context of antigen presenting cells, naïve CD4(+) T cells undergo differentiation into effector T helper (Th) cells, which can secrete high levels of cytokines and other immunomodulators to mediate host defense and tissue inflammation. During the past three years, the immunology field has witnessed an explosion of research advances in the biology of Th17 cells, the most recently described subset of T helper cells, which play crucial roles in host immunity and inflammation. Here we review emerging data on transcriptional regulatory networks that govern the differentiation program of Th17 cells, and focus on how the orphan nuclear receptor RORgammat coordinates this process in concert with diverse cytokine-induced transcription factors.
    Current opinion in immunology 04/2009; 21(2):146-52. · 10.88 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent research has uncovered complex transcription factor networks that control the processes of T-cell development and differentiation. RUNX (runt-related transcription factor) proteins are among the many factors that have crucial roles in these networks. In this Review, we examine the mechanisms by which RUNX complexes act together with other transcription factors, such as Th-POK (T-helper-inducing POZ/Kruppel-like factor) and GATA-binding protein 3 (GATA3) in determining the CD4/CD8 lineage choice of developing thymocytes. In addition, we discuss evidence indicating that RUNX complexes are also involved in the differentiation of effector T-cell subsets and that the molecular mechanisms by which RUNX proteins regulate T-cell fate decisions are conserved between the thymus and periphery.
    Nature Reviews Immunology 03/2009; 9(2):106-15. · 32.25 Impact Factor
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    Edward P Browne, Dan R Littman
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    ABSTRACT: Although retroviruses have been extensively studied for many years, basic questions about how retroviral infections are detected by the immune system and which innate pathways are required for the generation of immune responses remain unanswered. Defining these pathways and how they contribute to the anti-retroviral immune responses would assist in the development of more effective vaccines for retroviral pathogens such as HIV. We have investigated the roles played by CD11c(+) dendritic cells (DCs) and by Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling pathways in the generation of an anti-retroviral immune response against a mouse retroviral pathogen, Friend murine leukemia virus (F-MLV). Specific deletion of DCs during F-MLV infection caused a significant increase in viral titers at 14 days post-infection, indicating the importance of DCs in immune control of the infection. Similarly, Myd88 knockout mice failed to control F-MLV, and sustained high viral titers (10(7) foci/spleen) for several months after infection. Strikingly, both DC-depleted mice and Myd88 knockout mice exhibited only a partial reduction of CD8(+) T cell responses, while the IgG antibody response to F-MLV was completely lost. Furthermore, passive transfer of immune serum from wild-type mice to Myd88 knockout mice rescued control of F-MLV. These results identify TLR signaling and CD11c(+) DCs as playing critical roles in the humoral response to retroviruses.
    PLoS Pathogens 03/2009; 5(2):e1000298. · 8.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Signaling through the T cell antigen receptor (TCR) is important for the homeostasis of naïve and memory CD4(+) T cells. The significance of TCR signaling in regulatory T (Treg) cells has not been systematically addressed. Using an Ox40-cre allele that is prominently expressed in Treg cells, and a conditional null allele of the gene encoding p56(Lck), we have examined the importance of TCR signaling in Treg cells. Inactivation of p56(Lck) resulted in abnormal Treg homeostasis characterized by impaired turnover, preferential redistribution to the lymph nodes, loss of suppressive function, and striking changes in gene expression. Abnormal Treg cell homeostasis and function did not reflect the involvement of p56(Lck) in CD4 function because these effects were not observed when CD4 expression was inactivated by Ox40-cre.The results make clear multiple aspects of Treg cell homeostasis and phenotype that are dependent on a sustained capacity to signal through the TCR.
    PLoS ONE 02/2009; 4(8):e6580. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cells derived from native rodents have limits at distinct steps of HIV replication. Rat primary CD4 T-cells, but not macrophages, display a profound transcriptional deficit that is ameliorated by transient trans-complementation with the human Tat-interacting protein Cyclin T1 (hCycT1). Here, we generated transgenic rats that selectively express hCycT1 in CD4 T-cells and macrophages. hCycT1 expression in rat T-cells boosted early HIV gene expression to levels approaching those in infected primary human T-cells. hCycT1 expression was necessary, but not sufficient, to enhance HIV transcription in T-cells from individual transgenic animals, indicating that endogenous cellular factors are critical co-regulators of HIV gene expression in rats. T-cells from hCD4/hCCR5/hCycT1-transgenic rats did not support productive infection of prototypic wild-type R5 HIV-1 strains ex vivo, suggesting one or more significant limitation in the late phase of the replication cycle in this primary rodent cell type. Remarkably, we identify a replication-competent HIV-1 GFP reporter strain (R7/3 YU-2 Env) that displays characteristics of a spreading, primarily cell-to-cell-mediated infection in primary T-cells from hCD4/hCCR5-transgenic rats. Moreover, the replication of this recombinant HIV-1 strain was significantly enhanced by hCycT1 transgenesis. The viral determinants of this so far unique replicative ability are currently unknown. Thus, hCycT1 expression is beneficial to de novo HIV infection in a transgenic rat model, but additional genetic manipulations of the host or virus are required to achieve full permissivity.
    Retrovirology 02/2009; 6:2. · 5.66 Impact Factor
  • Cytokine 01/2009; 48(1):18-18. · 2.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The mechanism underlying the transient accumulation of CD4 at the immunological synapse (IS) and its significance for T cell activation are not understood. To investigate these issues, we mutated a serine phosphorylation site (S408) in the cytoplasmic tail of murine CD4. Preventing phosphorylation of S408 did not block CD4 recruitment to the IS; rather, it blocked the ability of CD4 to leave the IS. Surprisingly, enhanced and prolonged CD4 accumulation at the supramolecular activation cluster in the contact area had no functional consequence for T cell activation, cytokine production, or proliferation. Protein kinase C theta (PKCtheta)-deficient T cells also displayed enhanced and prolonged accumulation of wild-type CD4 at the IS, indicating that theta is the critical PKC isoform involved in CD4 movement. These findings suggest a model wherein recruitment of CD4 to the IS allows its phosphorylation by PKCtheta and subsequent removal from the IS. Thus, an important role for PKCtheta in T cell activation involves its recruitment to the IS, where it phosphorylates specific substrates that help to maintain the dynamism of protein turnover at the IS.
    The Journal of Immunology 01/2009; 181(12):8248-57. · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The interleukin (IL) 17 family of cytokines has emerged to be critical for host defense as well as the pathogenesis of autoimmune and autoinflammatory disorders, and serves to link adaptive and innate responses. Recent studies have identified a new subset of T cells that selectively produce IL-17 (Th17 cells; Bettelli, E., T. Korn, and V.K. Kuchroo. 2007. Curr. Opin. Immunol. 19:652-657; Kolls, J.K., and A. Linden. 2004. Immunity. 21:467-476), but the regulation of IL-17 production by innate immune cells is less well understood. We report that in vitro stimulation with IL-23 induced IL-17 production by recombination activating gene (Rag) 2(-/-) splenocytes but not Rag2(-/-) common gamma chain(-/-) splenocytes. We found that a major source of IL-17 was CD4(+)CD3(-)NK1.1(-)CD11b(-)Gr1(-)CD11c(-)B220(-) cells, a phenotype that corresponds to lymphoid tissue inducer-like cells (LTi-like cells), which constitutively expressed the IL-23 receptor, aryl hydrocarbon receptor, and CCR6. In vivo challenge with the yeast cell wall product zymosan rapidly induced IL-17 production in these cells. Genetic deletion of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 reduced but did not abrogate IL-17 production in LTi-like cells. Thus, it appears that splenic LTi-like cells are a rapid source of IL-17 and IL-22, which might contribute to dynamic organization of secondary lymphoid organ structure or host defense.
    Journal of Experimental Medicine 01/2009; 206(1):35-41. · 13.21 Impact Factor
  • Zaruhi Hovhannisyan, Lloyd Mayer, Dan R. Littman
    Gastroenterology 01/2009; 136(5). · 12.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: NKp46+CD3- natural killer lymphocytes isolated from blood, lymphoid organs, lung, liver and uterus can produce granule-dependent cytotoxicity and interferon-gamma. Here we identify in dermis, gut lamina propria and cryptopatches distinct populations of NKp46+CD3- cells with a diminished capacity to degranulate and produce interferon-gamma. In the gut, expression of the transcription factor RORgammat, which is involved in the development of lymphoid tissue-inducer cells, defined a previously unknown subset of NKp46+CD3- lymphocytes. Unlike RORgammat- lamina propria and dermis natural killer cells, gut RORgammat+NKp46+ cells produced interleukin 22. Our data show that lymphoid tissue-inducer cells and natural killer cells shared unanticipated similarities and emphasize the heterogeneity of NKp46+CD3- cells in innate immunity, lymphoid organization and local tissue repair.
    Nature Immunology 12/2008; 10(1):75-82. · 26.20 Impact Factor
  • Ruslan Medzhitov, Dan Littman
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    ABSTRACT: Researchers need to get past the standard model of vaccine development and focus on how immune responses are specifically tailored to retroviruses, argue Ruslan Medzhitov and Dan Littman.
    Nature 11/2008; 455(7213):591. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The requirements for in vivo steady state differentiation of IL-17-producing T-helper (Th17) cells, which are potent inflammation effectors, remain obscure. We report that Th17 cell differentiation in the lamina propria (LP) of the small intestine requires specific commensal microbiota and is inhibited by treating mice with selective antibiotics. Mice from different sources had marked differences in their Th17 cell numbers and animals lacking Th17 cells acquired them after introduction of bacteria from Th17 cell-sufficient mice. Differentiation of Th17 cells correlated with the presence of cytophaga-flavobacter-bacteroidetes (CFB) bacteria in the intestine and was independent of toll-like receptor, IL-21 or IL-23 signaling, but required appropriate TGF-beta activation. Absence of Th17 cell-inducing bacteria was accompanied by increase in Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Treg) in the LP. Our results suggest that composition of intestinal microbiota regulates the Th17:Treg balance in the LP and may thus influence intestinal immunity, tolerance, and susceptibility to inflammatory bowel diseases.
    Cell host & microbe 11/2008; 4(4):337-49. · 13.02 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: IL-17-producing CD4(+) T-helper cells (Th17) contribute to chronic autoimmune inflammation in the brain, and levels of Th17-derived cytokines increase in patients with colitis, suggesting a role in pathogenesis. We analyzed the roles of Th17 cells and the transcription factor retinoic acid receptor-related organ receptor (ROR)gamma, which regulates Th17 differentiation, in chronic intestinal inflammation. Using an adoptive transfer model of colitis, we compared the colitogenic potential of wild-type, interleukin-17A (IL-17A)-, IL-17F-, IL-22-, and RORgamma-deficient CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells in RAG1-null mice. Adoptive transfer of IL-17A-, IL-17F-, or IL-22-deficient T lymphocytes into RAG1-null mice caused severe colitis that was indistinguishable from that caused by wild-type cells. In contrast, transfer of RORgamma-null T cells failed to increase mucosal IL-17 cytokine levels and did not induce colitis. Treatment with IL-17A was able to restore colitis after transfer of RORgamma-null T cells, indicating a crucial role for Th17 cells in pathogenesis. Treatment of RAG1 mice that received IL-17F-null (but not wild-type) T cells with a neutralizing anti-IL-17A antibody significantly suppressed disease, indicating redundant biological effects of IL-17A and IL-17F. We have identified a crucial role of RORgamma-expressing Th17 cells in chronic intestinal inflammation. RORgamma controls IL-17A and IL-17F production, and these cytokines have a redundant but highly pathogenic role in gut inflammation. Reagents that target RORgamma or a combination of anti-IL-17A and anti-IL-17F might be developed as therapeutics for chronic colitis.
    Gastroenterology 11/2008; 136(1):257-67. · 12.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Interference with inhibitory immunological checkpoints controlling T cell activation provides new opportunities to augment cancer immunotherapies. Whereas cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen-4 blockade has shown promising preclinical and clinical results, therapeutic CD4(+)CD25(+) T reg cell depletion has failed to consistently enhance immune-based therapies. Using B16/BL6, a transplantable murine melanoma model, we show a dichotomy between the effects of T reg cell depletion on tumor rejection dependent on whether depletion occurs before (prophylactic) or after (therapeutic) tumor engraftment. Failure to promote rejection with therapeutic depletion is not related to lack of T reg cell depletion, to elimination of CD25(+) effector T cells, or to a failure to enhance systemic antitumor T cell responses, but correlates with failure of effector cells to infiltrate the tumor and increase the intratumor ratio of effector T cell/T reg cell. Finally, systemic antitumor responses generated upon therapeutic T reg cell depletion are significantly stronger than those generated in the presence of T reg cells, and are capable of eliciting rejection of established tumors after transfer into immunoablated recipients receiving combination immunotherapy. The data demonstrate a dissociation between measurable systemic responses and tumor rejection during CD25-directed T reg cell depletion, and suggest an alternative, clinically applicable strategy for the treatment of established tumors.
    Journal of Experimental Medicine 10/2008; 205(9):2125-38. · 13.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Natural killer (NK) cell sense virally infected cells and tumor cells through multiple cell surface receptors. Many NK cell-activating receptors signal through immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motif (ITAM)-containing adapters, which trigger both cytotoxicy and secretion of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma). Within the ITAM pathway, distinct signaling intermediates are variably involved in cytotoxicity and/or IFN-gamma secretion. In this study, we have evaluated the role of protein kinase C- (PKC-) in NK-cell secretion of lytic mediators and IFN-gamma. We found that engagement of NK-cell receptors that signal through ITAMs results in prompt activation of PKC-. Analyses of NK cells from PKC--deficient mice indicated that PKC- is absolutely required for ITAM-mediated IFN-gamma secretion, whereas it has no marked influence on the release of cytolytic mediators. Moreover, we found that PKC- deficiency preferentially impairs sustained extracellular-regulated kinase signaling as well as activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase and the transcription factors AP-1 and NFAT but does not affect activation of NF-kappaB. These results indicate that NK cell-activating receptors require PKC- to generate sustained intracellular signals that reach the nucleus and promote transcriptional activation, ultimately inducing IFN-gamma production.
    Blood 10/2008; 112(10):4109-16. · 9.78 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are implicated in the differentiation and function of many cell types. We provide genetic and in vivo evidence that the two RNaseIII enzymes, Drosha and Dicer, do indeed function in the same pathway. These have previously been shown to mediate the stepwise maturation of miRNAs (Lee, Y., C. Ahn, J. Han, H. Choi, J. Kim, J. Yim, J. Lee, P. Provost, O. Radmark, S. Kim, and V.N. Kim. 2003. Nature. 425:415-419), and genetic ablation of either within the T cell compartment, or specifically within Foxp3(+) regulatory T (T reg) cells, results in identical phenotypes. We found that miRNA biogenesis is indispensable for the function of T reg cells. Specific deletion of either Drosha or Dicer phenocopies mice lacking a functional Foxp3 gene or Foxp3(+) cells, whereas deletion throughout the T cell compartment also results in spontaneous inflammatory disease, but later in life. Thus, miRNA-dependent regulation is critical for preventing spontaneous inflammation and autoimmunity.
    Journal of Experimental Medicine 10/2008; 205(9):2005-17. · 13.21 Impact Factor
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    Takeshi Egawa, Dan R Littman
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    ABSTRACT: The transcription factor ThPOK is required and sufficient for the generation of CD4(+)CD8(-) thymocytes, yet the mechanism by which ThPOK orchestrates differentiation into the CD4(+) helper T cell lineage remains unclear. Here we used reporter mice to track the expression of transcription factors in developing thymocytes. Distal promoter-driven expression of the gene encoding the transcription factor Runx3 was restricted to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I-selected thymocytes. In ThPOK-deficient mice, such expression was derepressed in MHC class II-selected thymocytes, which contributed to their redirection to the CD8(+) T cell lineage. In the absence of both ThPOK and Runx, redirection was prevented and cells potentially belonging to the CD4(+) lineage, presumably specified independently of ThPOK, were generated. Our results suggest that MHC class II-selected thymocytes are directed toward the CD4(+) lineage independently of ThPOK but require ThPOK to prevent Runx-dependent differentiation toward the CD8(+) lineage.
    Nature Immunology 10/2008; 9(10):1131-9. · 26.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is generated in the gut by both T cell-dependent and T cell-independent processes. The sites and the mechanisms for T cell-independent IgA synthesis remain elusive. Here we show that isolated lymphoid follicles (ILFs) were sites where induction of activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) and IgA class switching of B cells took place in the absence of T cells. We also show that formation of ILFs was regulated by interactions between lymphoid tissue-inducer cells expressing the nuclear receptor ROR gamma t (ROR gamma t(+)LTi cells) and stromal cells (SCs). Activation of SCs by ROR gamma t(+)LTi cells through lymphotoxin (LT)-beta receptor (LT beta R) and simultaneously by bacteria through TLRs induced recruitment of dendritic cells (DCs) and B cells and formation of ILFs. These findings provide insight into the crosstalk between bacteria, ROR gamma t(+)LTi cells, SCs, DCs, and B cells required for ILF formation and establish a critical role of ILFs in T cell-independent IgA synthesis in gut.
    Immunity 08/2008; 29(2):261-71. · 19.80 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

44k Citations
4,507.30 Total Impact Points


  • 2014
    • Erasmus MC
      • Department of Cell Biology
      Rotterdam, South Holland, Netherlands
  • 1998–2014
    • CUNY Graduate Center
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 1985–2013
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Ashburn, Virginia, United States
  • 2011
    • Washington University in St. Louis
      • Department of Pathology and Immunology
      San Luis, Missouri, United States
    • Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
      La Jolla, California, United States
    • Institut Curie
      Lutetia Parisorum, Île-de-France, France
    • The University of Tokyo
      • Faculty & Graduate School of Medicine
      Tokyo, Tokyo-to, Japan
  • 2001–2011
    • Columbia University
      • Department of Microbiology and Immunology
      New York City, NY, United States
  • 1998–2011
    • New York University
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 2010
    • The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
      Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • 2008
    • Yale University
      New Haven, Connecticut, United States
  • 1988–2006
    • University of California, San Francisco
      • Department of Microbiology and Immunology
      San Francisco, CA, United States
    • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
      • DeWitt Wallace Research Laboratory
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 2004
    • University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
      Houston, Texas, United States
    • RIKEN
      • Laboratory for Transcriptional Regulation
      Wako, Saitama-ken, Japan
  • 2002
    • University of California, Berkeley
      • Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
      Berkeley, MO, United States
    • Kyushu University
      • Department of Molecular Genetics
      Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken, Japan
  • 2001–2002
    • University of Vienna
      • Institute of Immunology
      Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  • 2000
    • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
      • Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases (LPD)
      Maryland, United States
  • 1997–1999
    • NYU Langone Medical Center
      • Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine
      New York City, NY, United States
    • State University of New York Downstate Medical Center
      • Department of Physiology and Pharmacology
      Brooklyn, NY, United States
  • 1996
    • Stanford University
      Palo Alto, California, United States
  • 1986
    • Wistar Institute
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States