Dr. Alejandro Villarino’s interest in cytokines began as a Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania, where he first encountered the ‘double-edged’ nature of infection-induced cytokine responses, at once necessary for protective immunity and capable of propagating disease. That dichotomy was the central theme of his dissertation on interleukin-27 (IL-27), a cytokine that was initially classified as pro-inflammatory but which he discovered has critical anti-inflammatory functions that have since been observed in over 30 models of infection and immuno-pathology. Upon transitioning to postdoctoral research at the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Villarino’s focus shifted from infectious to autoimmune disease. He continued to work on cytokines, particularly in the context of the (then) newly minted Th17 T cell subset, and identified a key role for post-transcriptional silencing in limiting pathogenic T cell hyperactivity and cytokine production. Since becoming a research fellow at the NIAMS, he has embraced genomics as a means of interrogating cytokine signaling. His work focuses on cytokines that employ the transcription factor STAT5, the only STAT family member encoded by two genes and the one most intimately linked with the immune system

Research Statement

Building on 15+ years of experience in the field of cytokine biology, Dr. Villarino’s research focuses on cell intrinsic mechanisms for homeostatic, protective and pathogenic cytokine responses. The overarching goal is to define cellular and molecular consequences for cytokine signaling in immune cells and to leverage these insights for the development novel therapeutic strategies while advancing collective understanding of human health and diseases.

Scientific Publications

Signal transducer and activator of transcription 5 (STAT5) paralog dose governs T cell effector and regulatory functions.

Villarino A, Laurence A, Robinson GW, Bonelli M, Dema B, Afzali B, Shih HY, Sun HW, Brooks SR, Hennighausen L, Kanno Y, O'Shea JJ
2016 Mar 21;
pii: e08384. doi: 10.7554/eLife.08384
PMID: 26999798

Mechanisms of Jak/STAT signaling in immunity and disease.

Villarino AV, Kanno Y, Ferdinand JR, O'Shea JJ
Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950).
2015 Jan 1;
doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1401867
PMID: 25527793

Posttranscriptional control of T cell effector function by aerobic glycolysis.

Chang CH, Curtis JD, Maggi LB Jr, Faubert B, Villarino AV, O'Sullivan D, Huang SC, van der Windt GJ, Blagih J, Qiu J, Weber JD, Pearce EJ, Jones RG, Pearce EL
2013 Jun 6;
doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.016
PMID: 23746840

Posttranscriptional silencing of effector cytokine mRNA underlies the anergic phenotype of self-reactive T cells.

Villarino AV, Katzman SD, Gallo E, Miller O, Jiang S, McManus MT, Abbas AK
2011 Jan 28;
doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2010.12.014
PMID: 21236706

The IL-27R (WSX-1) is required to suppress T cell hyperactivity during infection.

Villarino A, Hibbert L, Lieberman L, Wilson E, Mak T, Yoshida H, Kastelein RA, Saris C, Hunter CA
2003 Nov;


University of Pennsylvania 
Ph.D., Parasitology 

Drew University 
B.A., Biology, magna cum laude


Research Fellow
NIAMS, NIH, 2010–present

Postdoctoral Fellow
University of California San Francisco, 2005–2010

Ph.D. Candidate
University of Pennsylvania, 1999–2005

Last Updated: July 2020