Michael S Kuhns, PhD

Clinical and Translational Oncology Program


Michael Kuhns did his PhD training with James Allison at UC Berkeley studying the role that CTLA-4 plays in regulating CD4 T cell responses. He then went on to Stanford University for his postdoctoral studies with Mark Davis, studying the architecture and function of the TCR-CD3 complex, and joined the Department of Immunobiology at the University of Arizona in 2010. When in search of a mental diversion, he enjoys mountain biking and hiking in the local desert and sky islands.

Cancer Focus

His research program is focused on (i) increasing our basic understanding of how T cell fate decisions are made (e.g. development, activation, differentiation, effector functions), and (ii) increasing their working knowledge of how to manipulate these decisions to direct T cells towards a desired outcome, such as increasing responses to vaccines or tumors, preventing transplant rejection, or attenuating autoimmunity.

To this end they are pursuing three lines of investigation.

  • The first involves identifying and characterizing the molecular mechanisms that transfer information from the outside to the inside of a T cell.
  • The second involves characterizing how these unique mechanisms each influence T cell fate decisions in vivo while developing reagents to manipulate these mechanisms to assess their suitability as targets for translational immune-modulating reagents in humans.
  • The third involves determining if and how aging impacts T cell receptor proximal signaling events during T cell APC interactions in order to better understand how aging diminishes immune capacity and, conversely, increases susceptibility to infections.

In pursuit of these efforts, they have gained a broad working knowledge of the molecular and cellular components of the vertebrate immune system and experimental expertise in in vitro and in vivo experiments. Importantly, they have established a variety of reductionist systems that allow them to interrogate the molecular mechanisms by which key molecular machines relay information from the outside to the inside of a T cell function to instruct T cell fate decisions.