• Researcher Profile

    Kai W. Wucherpfennig, MD, PhD

    Kai W. Wucherpfennig, MD, PhD
    Chair, Department of Cancer Immunology and Virology

    Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School

    Office phone: 617-632-3086
    Fax: 617-582-9164
    Email: kai_wucherpfennig@dfci.harvard.edu
    Website: Wucherpfennig Lab

    Preferred contact method: email

    Research Department

    Cancer Immunology and Virology

    Area of Research

    Innovative Research in T cell Biology and Cancer Immunology

    One Jimmy Fund Way
    Smith 736
    Boston, MA 02115


    Dr. Wucherpfennig received his MD in 1986 and his PhD in 1987 from the University of Goettingen, Germany. He completed research fellowships at Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University. In 1995, he joined DFCI, where he is principally involved in basic laboratory research that focuses on T cell immunology and the role of T cells in cancer immunology. 

    Recent Awards

    • Transformative RO1, NIH Director's Transformative Research Award Program, 2012

    • Elected as Fellow, American Society for the Advancement of Science, 2009
    • Elected as Member Henry Kunkel Society, Rockefeller University, 2007
    • Elected as Member of American Society for Clinical Investigation, 2006
    • Langheinrich Prize, University of Berlin, 1995
    • Harry Weaver Neuroscience Scholar, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 1992


    Innovative Research in T cell Biology and Cancer Immunology

    Recent work has shown that T cells play a central role in controlling tumor growth.  We study the molecular mechanisms that control T cell receptor recognition of tumor antigens and subsequent signaling events that determine the fate of tumor-infiltrating T cells.  We are particularly interested in the signaling and transcriptional networks that inhibit T cell function in the tumor microenvironment.  Insights into these molecular switches may be useful for enhancing cytotoxic T cell function against cancers. 

    Select Publications

    • Xu C, Gagnon E, Call ME, Schnell JR, Schwieters CD, Carman CV, Chou JJ, Wucherpfennig KW. Regulation of T cell Receptor Activation by Dynamic Membrane Binding of the CD3epsilon Cytoplasmic Tyrosine-Based Motif. Cell 2008, 135:702-13.
    • Anders A-K, Call MJ, Schulze M-SED, Fowler KD, Schubert DA, Seth NP, Sundberg EJ, Wucherpfennig KW. HLA-DM captures partially empty HLA-DR molecules for catalyzed removal of peptide. Nat. Immunol. 2011; 12: 54-61.
    • Pos W, Sethi DK, Call MJ, Schulze M-SED, Anders AK, Pyrdol J, Wucherpfennig KW.  Crystal structure of the HLA-DM - HLA-DR1 complex defines mechanisms for rapid peptide selection.  Cell 2012; 151: 1557-1568.
    • Gagnon E, Schubert DA, Gordo S, Chu HH, Wucherpfennig KW. Local changes in the lipid microenvironment of TCR microclusters regulate membrane binding by the CD3 epsilon cytoplasmic domain.  J. Exp. Med. 2012; 209: 2423-2439.
    • Schubert DA, Gordo S, Sabatino JJ, Vardhana S, Gagnon E, Sethi DK, Seth NP, Choudhuri K, Reijonen H, Nepom GT, Evavold BD, Dustin ML, Wucherpfennig KW. Self-reactive human CD4 T cell clones form unusual immunological synapses. J. Exp. Med. 2012; 209: 335-352.


    • Sethi, Dhruv, PhD
    • Zhou, Penghui, PhD
    • Pos, Wouter, PhD
    • Harvey, Christopher, PhD
    • Shaffer, Don, PhD
    • Moffett, Howell, PhD
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