Kate Jeffrey, Ph.D.

Physician Investigator (NonCl)
Gastroenterology, Mass General Research Institute
Associate Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
John Lawrence MGH Research Scholar 2020-2025
Mass General Research Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital
PhD University of New South Wales 2006
epigenetics; ibd; immunity; immunologic memory; inflammatory bowel diseases; influenza a virus; mitogen-activated protein kinases; ns1s; phosphoric monoester hydrolases; protein tyrosine phosphatases; rnais; small non-coding rnas Given the continuing global burden of infectious disease, the study of host-pathogen interactions is essential for improved therapies that impact human health. We focus on understanding the role of host epigenetic programs that drive innate immune responses to pathogens, how these programs are dysregulated in disease and we how we can harness these mechanisms to boost or subdue immune responses.

The interaction of innate immune cells with pathogens leads to changes in gene expression that elicit our bodies first line of defense against infection.  These cell-lineage and signal-specific gene expression programs are primarily governed by epigenetic enzymes that regulate posttranslational modifications on histones. This 'histone code’ not only controls the accessibility of the genes to transcription factors, but also serve as docking sites for epigenetic “reader” enzymes that recruit essential transcriptional machinery. Dysregulation of these epigenetic modifiers is a recurrent and sentinel event in malignancy and inflammation. Hence, enzymes that “write”, “erase” and “read” the histone code are the most promising and intently pursued targets in drug discovery today.

While much of the histone code is set during cellular differentiation, pathogens and other environmental triggers also induce changes in the epigenetic landscape that govern gene expression programs in mature immune cells. This raises a very fundamental question of how our environment may influence immune cell behavior and gene expression in the short and long term.  

My lab currently has two active areas research: 1) Understanding the role of bromodomain-containing family of epigenetic “readers” for gene expression programs following pathogen infection of innate immune cells and 2) the contribution of small non-coding RNAs and their associated proteins to antiviral immunity.

Dr. is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, an Assistant in Immunology at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associated researcher at the Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard. Kate performed her undergraduate studies at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and completed her PhD with Professor Charles Mackay at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia. She then worked as an Immunology editor with Nature Medicine in New York in 2007 before performing her postdoctoral research with Professor Sasha Tarakhovsky at The Rockefeller University in New York.