J. Lindsay Whitton, MD, PhD

Department of Immunology and Microbiology
California Campus


Scripps Research Joint Appointments

Faculty, Graduate Program

Research Focus

Viral Pathogenesis and Antiviral Immunity

My lab's research focuses on making life as difficult for viruses as they do for us. To this end, we work on: (i) antiviral immunity (how does the infected host control infection, & how do antiviral vaccines work?); and (ii) viral pathogenesis (how do viruses cause disease?). Most immune responses recognize short stretches of microbial protein, and T lymphocytes see peptides of around 9-16 amino acids in length. Our work on regulation of antiviral T cells has shown that these cells initiate and terminate their effector functions within moments of encountering the relevant peptide antigen. Our vaccine studies have shown that these short immunogenic peptides can be linked end to end in a "string of beads", resulting in a vaccine which, in one shot, can confer immunity against several pathogens. We are currently analyzing plasmid DNA vaccines, which work rather well, but whose underlying mechanisms remain unclear. For our studies on pathogenesis we employ coxsackievirus, which is a common cause of myocarditis (heart disease); we are evaluating the role of the immune system in this disease, and have found that we can interrupt certain components of the immune response, to relieve myocarditis without compromising the ability of the host to eradicate the infection.


Ph.D. (Immunology), University of Glasgow, 1984
M.D. (Medicine), University of Glasgow, 1979

Professional Experience

2013-2017 Professor, Immunology and Microbial Science (IMS), Scripps Research

Awards & Professional Activities

Chair, Special Study Section on Vaccine Development, National Institutes of Health Member, Advisory Committee on Fellowships, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 2000-2002, 2006-present Member, Special Review Panel, National Institutes of Health, May 2000 Ad Hoc Member, Experimental Virology Study Section, National Institutes of Health, 2000-present Ad Hoc Member, National Institutes of Health, Virology study section, 2001-present Member, Career Awards for Medical Scientist (CAMS) committee, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, 2007-present Member, review committee, American Heart Association, 2007-present.

Editorial Boards

Journal of Virology, 1993-present; Virology, 1997 - 2006 FEMS Medical Microbiology and Immunology, 1994 - present Viral Immunology, 1999 - present, Acting Editor in Chief, 9/05 - 12/06.


Editor, Virology, 2007-present; Acting Editor in Cheif, Viral Immunology, 9/05 - 12/06

Selected References

All Publications

Leifert,J.A., J.A.Lindencrona, J.Charo, and J.L.Whitton. 2001. Enhancing T Cell Activation and Antiviral Protection by Introducing the HIV-1 Protein Transduction Domain into a DNA Vaccine. Hum.Gene Ther. 12: 1881-1892.

Rodriguez,F., S.Harkins, J.M.Redwine, J.M.de Perada, and J.L.Whitton. 2001. CD4+ T cells induced by a DNA vaccine: immunological consequences of epitope-specific lysosomal targeting. J.Virol. 75: 10421-10430.

Slifka,M.K., R.R.Pagarigan, I.Mena, R.Feuer, and J.L.Whitton. 2001. Using recombinant coxsackievirus B3 to evaluate the induction and protective efficacy of CD8+ T cells in controlling picornaviral infection. J.Virol. 75 : 2377-2387.

Slifka,M.K. and J.L.Whitton. 2001. Functional avidity maturation of CD8+ T cells without selection of higher affinity TCR. Nat.Immunol. 2: 711-717.