Ernst Lab - Microbiology

Joel D. Ernst, M.D.
Professor, Departments of Medicine, Pathology, and Microbiology
Jeffrey Bergstein Professor of Medicine
Director, Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology
Alexandria Center for Life Sciences
430 East 29th Street, Room 304
New York, NY 10016
Lab: (212) 263-6785
Administrative Assistant: Michelle Phang (212) 263-5182



Tuberculosis, immune evasion, CD4 T cells, dendritic cells, cell trafficking, inflammation, adaptive immunity, granuloma, global infectious diseases, antigen discovery, human immunology



M.D. with Distinction, University of Nebraska, 1978

Postdoctoral Training:

University of California, San Francisco, 1981-1985

Prior Position:

Professor, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, 1986-2002


Established Investigator, American Heart Association
Teaching Award Nomination, UCSF School of Medicine, Class of 1995
Sandler Award in Basic Science, UCSF
Association of American Physicians
Kirby Lecturer, University of Washington
Thaler Lecture, AERAS Global TB Vaccine Foundation
Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology
Honorary Doctorate, University of Linköping (Sweden) Faculty of Health Sciences


Director, Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, NYU School of Medicine
Chair, Host Interactions with Bacterial Pathogens Study Section (National Institutes of Health)
Chair, Clinical Research and Field Studies in Infectious Diseases (National Institutes of Health)
Principal Investigator, Tuberculosis Research Unit (Emory University, Kenya Medical Research Institute, New York University)
Cofounder, International Conference on Human Immunity to Tuberculosis
Faculty, Advanced Immunology Course, American Association of Immunologists
Adjunct Professor, Tongji School of Medicine, Shanghai, China
Editor, Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine
Editorial Boards: Cellular Microbiology, Journal of Immunology, Journal of Clinical Investigation


The goal of the work in the Ernst Laboratory is to contribute to the eradication of tuberculosis, by understanding the mechanisms and limitations of immunity to tuberculosis and developing ways to make the immune response more effective. We develop and apply new tools adapted from immunology and bacterial genomics to study the impact of human immune responses on evolution of the bacteria, and use the information to inform new approaches to vaccine development. We also manipulate the bacterial genome, together with genetically-engineered mice, to obtain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms used by M. tuberculosis to evade recognition and elimination by host immune responses.  Recently, through an NIH Tuberculosis Research Unit award, we have established a program in human immunity to tuberculosis, with research activities based in New York, Atlanta, and Kenya.

“Schematic of antigen export and transfer from M. tuberculosis-infected cells to uninfected cells for CD4 T cell activation.”

Antigen export vesicles (red) in M. tuberculosis (blue) infected cells colocalize with microtubules (green).



STIM1 controls T cell-mediated immune regulation and inflammation in chronic infection.
Desvignes L, Weidinger C, Shaw P, Vaeth M, Ribierre T, Liu M, Fergus T, Kozhaya L, McVoy L, Unutmaz D, Ernst JD, Feske S. J Clin Invest. 2015 Jun 1;125(6):2347-62. doi: 10.1172/JCI80273. Epub 2015 May 4.
PubMed PMID: 25938788.

Impact of in vitro evolution on antigenic diversity of Mycobacterium bovis bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG).
Copin R, Coscollá M, Efstathiadis E, Gagneux S, Ernst JD. Vaccine. 2014 Oct 14;32(45):5998-6004. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.07.113. Epub 2014 Sep 6.
PubMed PMID: 25211768.

Cell-to-cell transfer of M. tuberculosis antigens optimizes CD4 T cell priming.
Srivastava S, Ernst JD. Cell Host Microbe. 2014 Jun 11;15(6):741-52. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2014.05.007.
PubMed PMID: 24922576; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4098643.

Sequence diversity in the pe_pgrs genes of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is independent of human T cell recognition.
Copin R, Coscollá M, Seiffert SN, Bothamley G, Sutherland J, Mbayo G, Gagneux S, Ernst JD. MBio. 2014 Jan 14;5(1):e00960-13. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00960-13.
PubMed PMID: 24425732; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3903279.

Cutting edge: Direct recognition of infected cells by CD4 T cells is required for control of intracellular Mycobacterium tuberculosis in vivo.
Srivastava S, Ernst JD. J Immunol. 2013 Aug 1;191(3):1016-20. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1301236. Epub 2013 Jul 1.
PubMed PMID: 23817429; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3725655.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis inhibits neutrophil apoptosis, leading to delayed activation of naive CD4 T cells.
Blomgran R, Desvignes L, Briken V, Ernst JD. Cell Host Microbe. 2012 Jan 19;11(1):81-90. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2011.11.012.
PubMed PMID: 22264515; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3266554.

Suboptimal activation of antigen-specific CD4+ effector cells enables persistence of M. tuberculosis in vivo.
Bold TD, Banaei N, Wolf AJ, Ernst JD. PLoS Pathog. 2011 May;7(5):e1002063. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002063. Epub 2011 May 26.
PubMed PMID: 21637811; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3102708.

Human T cell epitopes of Mycobacterium tuberculosis are evolutionarily hyperconserved.
Comas I, Chakravartti J, Small PM, Galagan J, Niemann S, Kremer K, Ernst JD, Gagneux S. Nat Genet. 2010 Jun;42(6):498-503. doi: 10.1038/ng.590. Epub 2010 May 23.
PubMed PMID: 20495566; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2883744.

Interferon-gamma-responsive nonhematopoietic cells regulate the immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Desvignes L, Ernst JD. Immunity. 2009 Dec 18;31(6):974-85. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2009.10.007.
PubMed PMID: 20064452; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2807991.

Initiation of the adaptive immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis depends on antigen production in the local lymph node, not the lungs.
Wolf AJ, Desvignes L, Linas B, Banaiee N, Tamura T, Takatsu K, Ernst JD. J Exp Med. 2008 Jan 21;205(1):105-15. Epub 2007 Dec 24.
PubMed PMID: 18158321; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2234384.


Miriam Bolz, Ph.D. - Postdoctoral Scholar
Amber Cornelius - Research Assistant
Ludovic Desvignes, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
Tawania Fergus - Senior Research Assistant and Project Manager
Jessica Jang, Ph.D. - Postdoctoral Scholar  
Thais Klevorn - Research Technician
Pragati Nigam, Ph.D. - Research Scientist
Brian Norris, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar
Cynthia Portal-Celhay, M.D., Ph.D. - Assistant Professor
Alexandria Quezada - Research Technician
Shivani Singh, MD, Ph.D. - Pulmonary Fellow

Ernst Lab, Summer 2014: