Maria Ciofani


Associate Professor of Integrative Immunobiology

Transcriptional Regulation of Proinflammatory Lymphocytes

IL-17-expressing CD4 T helper (Th17) cells are important members of the intestinal immune cell community that contribute to protection against bacterial and fungal infections, and maintenance of intestinal homeostasis.  Although central to immunity, dysregulted Th17 cell function has been implicated in tissue inflammation and autoimmune disease (e.g. Inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis).  In order to understand this balance between healthy and pathogenic responses, we are interested in defining the transcriptional regulatory mechanisms that govern (1) Th17 cell specification from naive T cell precursors and, (2) Th17 cell effector plasticity during inflammation.  Combining genome-wide interrogation of regulatory information (transcription factor occupancy, chromatin accessibility, and transcriptional output) with gene-deficiency models in mice, we can dissect the contribution of key transcriptional regulators in proinflammatory T cell function.

We currently have open positions for students, postdoctoral fellows and a research technician.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Associate Professor of Integrative Immunobiology
  • Associate Professor of Cell Biology
  • Member of the Duke Cancer Institute

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 128 Jones Bldg, 207 Researchr, 3010 DUMC, Durham, NC 27710
  • Office Phone: (919) 684-1166
  • Email Address:


  • Ph.D. University of Toronto (Canada), 2007

Courses Taught

  • IMMUNOL 736: Topics in Immunology
  • IMMUNOL 800: Comprehensive Immunology

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Parker, ME; Barrera, A; Wheaton, JD; Zuberbuehler, MK; Allan, DSJ; Carlyle, JR; Reddy, TE; Ciofani, M, c-Maf regulates the plasticity of group 3 innate lymphoid cells by restraining the type 1 program., J Exp Med, vol 217 no. 1 (2020) [10.1084/jem.20191030] [abs].
  • Wheaton, JD; Ciofani, M, JunB Controls Intestinal Effector Programs in Regulatory T Cells., Frontiers in Immunology, vol 11 (2020) [10.3389/fimmu.2020.00444] [abs].
  • Espinosa, JR; Wheaton, JD; Ciofani, M, In Vitro Differentiation of CD4+ T Cell Effector and Regulatory Subsets., Methods Mol Biol, vol 2111 (2020), pp. 79-89 [10.1007/978-1-0716-0266-9_7] [abs].
  • Parker, ME; Ciofani, M, Regulation of γδ T Cell Effector Diversification in the Thymus., Frontiers in Immunology, vol 11 (2020) [10.3389/fimmu.2020.00042] [abs].
  • Juvvadi, PR; Fox, D; Bobay, BG; Hoy, MJ; Gobeil, SMC; Venters, RA; Chang, Z; Lin, JJ; Averette, AF; Cole, DC; Barrington, BC; Wheaton, JD; Ciofani, M; Trzoss, M; Li, X; Lee, SC; Chen, Y-L; Mutz, M; Spicer, LD; Schumacher, MA; Heitman, J; Steinbach, WJ, Harnessing calcineurin-FK506-FKBP12 crystal structures from invasive fungal pathogens to develop antifungal agents., Nature Communications, vol 10 no. 1 (2019) [10.1038/s41467-019-12199-1] [abs].
  • Miraldi, ER; Pokrovskii, M; Watters, A; Castro, DM; De Veaux, N; Hall, JA; Lee, J-Y; Ciofani, M; Madar, A; Carriero, N; Littman, DR; Bonneau, R, Leveraging chromatin accessibility for transcriptional regulatory network inference in T Helper 17 Cells., Genome Res, vol 29 no. 3 (2019), pp. 449-463 [10.1101/gr.238253.118] [abs].
  • Zuberbuehler, MK; Parker, ME; Wheaton, JD; Espinosa, JR; Salzler, HR; Park, E; Ciofani, M, The transcription factor c-Maf is essential for the commitment of IL-17-producing γδ T cells., Nat Immunol, vol 20 no. 1 (2019), pp. 73-85 [10.1038/s41590-018-0274-0] [abs].
  • Wheaton, J; Ciofani, M, JunB controls intestinal effector programs in regulatory T cells (2019) [10.1101/772194] [abs].
  • Wheaton, JD; Yeh, C-H; Ciofani, M, Cutting Edge: c-Maf Is Required for Regulatory T Cells To Adopt RORγt+ and Follicular Phenotypes., J Immunol, vol 199 no. 12 (2017), pp. 3931-3936 [10.4049/jimmunol.1701134] [abs].
  • Carr, TM; Wheaton, JD; Houtz, GM; Ciofani, M, JunB promotes Th17 cell identity and restrains alternative CD4+ T-cell programs during inflammation., Nature Communications, vol 8 no. 1 (2017) [10.1038/s41467-017-00380-3] [abs].
  • Glasmacher, E; Agrawal, S; Chang, AB; Murphy, TL; Zeng, W; Vander Lugt, B; Khan, AA; Ciofani, M; Spooner, CJ; Rutz, S; Hackney, J; Nurieva, R; Escalante, CR; Ouyang, W; Littman, DR; Murphy, KM; Singh, H, A genomic regulatory element that directs assembly and function of immune-specific AP-1-IRF complexes., Science, vol 338 no. 6109 (2012), pp. 975-980 [10.1126/science.1228309] [abs].
  • Ciofani, M; Madar, A; Galan, C; Sellars, M; Mace, K; Pauli, F; Agarwal, A; Huang, W; Parkhurst, CN; Muratet, M; Newberry, KM; Meadows, S; Greenfield, A; Yang, Y; Jain, P; Kirigin, FK; Birchmeier, C; Wagner, EF; Murphy, KM; Myers, RM; Bonneau, R; Littman, DR, A validated regulatory network for Th17 cell specification., Cell, vol 151 no. 2 (2012), pp. 289-303 [10.1016/j.cell.2012.09.016] [abs].
  • Huh, JR; Leung, MWL; Huang, P; Ryan, DA; Krout, MR; Malapaka, RRV; Chow, J; Manel, N; Ciofani, M; Kim, SV; Cuesta, A; Santori, FR; Lafaille, JJ; Xu, HE; Gin, DY; Rastinejad, F; Littman, DR, Digoxin and its derivatives suppress TH17 cell differentiation by antagonizing RORγt activity., Nature, vol 472 no. 7344 (2011), pp. 486-490 [10.1038/nature09978] [abs].
  • Ciofani, M; Zúñiga-Pflücker, JC, Determining γδ versus αß T cell development., Nat Rev Immunol, vol 10 no. 9 (2010), pp. 657-663 [10.1038/nri2820] [abs].
  • Chong, MMW; Simpson, N; Ciofani, M; Chen, G; Collins, A; Littman, DR, Epigenetic propagation of CD4 expression is established by the Cd4 proximal enhancer in helper T cells., Genes Dev, vol 24 no. 7 (2010), pp. 659-669 [10.1101/gad.1901610] [abs].
  • Palomero, T; Sulis, ML; Cortina, M; Real, PJ; Barnes, K; Ciofani, M; Caparros, E; Buteau, J; Brown, K; Perkins, SL; Bhagat, G; Agarwal, AM; Basso, G; Castillo, M; Nagase, S; Cordon-Cardo, C; Parsons, R; Zúñiga-Pflücker, JC; Dominguez, M; Ferrando, AA, Mutational loss of PTEN induces resistance to NOTCH1 inhibition in T-cell leukemia., Nature Medicine, vol 13 no. 10 (2007), pp. 1203-1210 [10.1038/nm1636] [abs].
  • Ciofani, M; Knowles, GC; Wiest, DL; von Boehmer, H; Zúñiga-Pflücker, JC, Stage-specific and differential notch dependency at the alphabeta and gammadelta T lineage bifurcation., Immunity, vol 25 no. 1 (2006), pp. 105-116 [10.1016/j.immuni.2006.05.010] [abs].
  • Ciofani, M; Zúñiga-Pflücker, JC, Notch promotes survival of pre-T cells at the beta-selection checkpoint by regulating cellular metabolism., Nature Immunology, vol 6 no. 9 (2005), pp. 881-888 [10.1038/ni1234] [abs].
  • Ciofani, M; Schmitt, TM; Ciofani, A; Michie, AM; Cuburu, N; Aublin, A; Maryanski, JL; Zúñiga-Pflücker, JC, Obligatory role for cooperative signaling by pre-TCR and Notch during thymocyte differentiation., The Journal of Immunology, vol 172 no. 9 (2004), pp. 5230-5239 [10.4049/jimmunol.172.9.5230] [abs].