Kim J. Hasenkrug, Ph.D.

Chief, Retroviral Immunology Section

Major Areas of Research

  • Mechanisms of vaccine protection against retroviral infection
  • Chronic retroviral infections: immunological control, regulatory T cells, immunomodulation, and therapeutics
  • Mechanisms of genetic resistanc to retroviral disease

Program Description

Our research is aimed at understanding host responses to retroviral infections. We use mice infected with Friend murine leukemia virus as a model to study basic immunology. A special interest is in chronic infections, including how chronic infections are established and maintained and developing strategies to prevent and treat them. Using this model, we discovered that viruses can subvert the suppressive nature of regulatory T cells to evade immunological destruction by CD8+ T cells. We also use “humanized” mice, mice that contain human immune systems, as a model to study immune responses to HIV infection and to help us determine basic mechanisms of vaccine protection against acute and chronic retroviral infections. The goal of these studies is to develop new ideas for HIV vaccines and therapies.

CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cell
Scanning electron micrograph of a CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cell isolated from a mouse spleen. Cells such as these protect from autoimmune diseases, but they can also suppress virus-specific immunity and thereby lead to chronic infections.


Dr. Hasenkrug received his Ph.D. in cell biology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1991 and conducted his postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Bruce Chesebro at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories. In 1998, he established an independent laboratory to study retroviral immunology and mechanisms of vaccine protection. A special focus of his work has been the study of establishment and maintenance of chronic infections and virus escape. Dr. Hasenkrug serves as an affiliated associate professor at Montana State University and the University of Montana and as a scientific advisor for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.

Editorial Boards

  • PLoS One
  • Virology

Research Group

Members of Retroviral Immunology Section

Members of Retroviral Immunology Section

Credit: NIAID

From left to right: Dr. Amanda Duley, Dr. Lara Myers, Mr. Aaron Carmody, Dr. Kim Hasenkrug, Mr. Ronald Messer

Selected Publications

Lavender, Kerry J.. Pang, Wendy W., Messer, Ronald J., Duley, Amanda K., Race, Brent, Phillips, Katie, Scott, Dana, Peterson, Karin E., Chan, Charles K., Dittmer, Ulf, Dudek, Timothy, Allen, Todd M., Weissman, Irving L., and Hasenkrug, Kim J. BLT-humanized C57BL/6 Rag2-/-γc-/-CD47-/-mice are resistant to GVHD and develop B and T cell immunity to HIV infection. Blood(in press)

Myers, L., Joeicke, J.J., Carmody, A. B., Messer, R.J., Kassoitis, G., Dudley, Jaquelin, P., Dittmer, U., and Kim J. Hasenkrug. IL-2-independent and TNFα-dependent Expansion of Vβ5+ Natural Regulatory T Cells During Retrovirus Infection. Journal of Immunology 190: 5485-95, 2013

Duley, A. K., Ploquin, M. J., Eksmond, U., Ammann, C. G., Messer, R. J., Myers, L., Kassiotis, G., Hasenkrug, K. J. Negative impact of IFN-gamma on early host immune responses to retroviral infection. Journal of Immunology 189: 2521-9, 2012

Dietze, Kirsten K. , Gennadiy Zelinskyy, Kathrin Gibbert, Simone Schimmer, Sandra Francois, Lara Myers, Tim Sparwasser, Kim J Hasenkrug & Ulf Dittmer. Transient depletion of regulatory T cells in transgenic mice reactivates virus-specific CD8+ T cells and reduces chronic retroviral setpoints. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 108:2420-5, 2011

Santiago, M. L., Montano, M., Benitez, R., Messer, R. J., Yonemoto, W., Chesebro, B., Hasenkrug, K. J.*, Greene, W. C.* (*shared senior authorship). Apobec3 encodes Rfv3, a gene influencing ne utralizing antibody control of retrovirus infection.Science 321: 1343-1346, 2008

Dittmer, Ulf, Hong He, Ronald J. Messer, Simone Schimmer, Anke R. M. Olbrich, Claes Ohlen, Philip D. Greenberg, Ingunn M. Stromnes, Michihiro Iwashiro, Shimon Sakaguchi, Leonard H. Evans, Karin E. Peterson, Guojun Yang, and Kim J. Hasenkrug. Functional impairment of CD8+ T cells by regulatory T cells during persistent retroviral infection. Immunity 20: 293-303 2004

Visit PubMed for a complete publication listing.

Content last reviewed on January 3, 2017