Susan McKarns, PhD


Dr. Susan McKarns’ research is focused on immunology with a goal of prevention and treatment of human autoimmune disorders, organ transplantation, inflammatory diseases, wound healing and cancer. Her research aims to better understand the molecular mechanisms governing the differentiation and function of CD4 T lymphocytes and their role in immunity and tolerance. Major areas of interest include cellular responses to TGF-beta; the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which TGF-beta; tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) govern the differentiation and function of regulatory T cells; the role that TGF-beta, TNF-alpha, and AHR play in the control of autoimmunity, tumor immunity, and immunity to infections and in the maintenance of immune homeostasis at environmental interfaces. Dr. McKarns has a particular interest in understanding how these signaling pathways impact the symbiotic relationship between immune homeostasis and the host commensal microbiome.

Academic Information

Associate Professor


NW300 Medical Sciences Building
Columbia, MO 65212
United States

Research Interests

  • Therapeutic potential of TGF-β1 in autoimmune diseases
  • TNF receptior 2 (TNFR2) pathway: Drug target for autoimmune diseases
  • Microbiota AND autoimmune disease
  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor and regulatory T cells
  • Sex-related factors in autoimmune disease susceptibility and progression

Areas of Expertise

  • Immunological tolerance
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Immune responses in the central nervous system and organ transplantation
  • Host microbiome and metabolomics in health and disease
  • The influence of environment and sex on immune-related disease susceptibility
  • Immune-mediated cancer therapeutics

Education & Training

Post-Graduate School

2001, PhD, Michigan State University


  • Miller, P.G., Bonn, M.B., Franklin, C.L., Ericcson, A.C., McKarns, S.C. (2015) TNF Receptor Type 2-deficiency Contributes to Sex-bias Spontaneous Autoimmunity: A Role for Gut Microbiome. J. Immunol. [Epub ahead of print, 10/16/2015].
  • Miller, P.G., Bonn, M.B., and McKarns, S.C. (2015) Transmembrane TNF-TNFR2 Impairs CD4+ Th17 Differentiation by Promoting Il2 expression. J. Immunol. 195(6):2633-47.
  • Bodeman, C.E., Dzierlenga, A.L., Tally, C.M., Mulligan, R.M., Lake, A.D., Cherrington, N.J., McKarns, S.C. (2013) Differential Regulation of Hepatic Oct 1, Oatp1a4, BSEP, and MRP2 Transporter Expression in Lymphocyte-deficient mice associates with IL-6 Production. J Pharmacol Exp Ther., 347(1):48-56.
  • Aroor, A., McKarns, S.C., Nistala, R.N., DeMarco, V., Whaley-Connell, A., and Sowers, J. R. (2013). DPP-4 inhibitors as therapeutic modulators of immune cell function and associated cardiovascular and renal insulin resistance in obesity and diabetes. Cardiorenal Med.; 3:48–56.
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