Robert Binder, PhD

  • Director, Graduate Program in Microbiology and Immunology (PMI)
  • Professor, Department of Immunology
  • Member, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute
  • Member, Graduate Program in Microbiology and Immunology (PMI)
  • Member, Molecular Pharmacology Graduate Program

Education & Training

  • Postdoc, University of Connecticut
  • PhD, University of Connecticut
  • BS, University of Ghana

Research Interests

Our research interests are focused on the mechanisms of cross-priming of antigens during immune responses to cancer, viruses and autoimmunity. The pursuit of this area stems from the observations that in a good number of situations Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs) are both necessary and sufficient for cross-presentation. HSPs are adept at this because of several unique properties:

(i) HSPs chaperone peptides

(ii) They bind to HSP-receptors (CD91) for endocytosis

(iii) They can stimulate immune cells to up-regulate costimulation

HSPs thus elicit remarkable immune responses specific for the peptides they chaperone. The laboratory is using these observations to examine new facets of antigen presentation and also to develop novel ways of immunotherapy of cancer, infectious disease and autoimmune disorders. A related area of research examines how other ligands for the HSP-receptor CD91 interact with the immune system. In the past few years we have shown that a2-macroglobulin, a CD91 ligand, though not a bonafide HSP, shares the immunogenic properties of HSPs and can elicit immune responses specific to (peptide) substrates that it chaperones. We are currently exploring the identification of naturally formed a 2M-substrate complexes and the potential of these immunogenic complexes to be used as therapeutic agents in cancer and infectious disease.


Sedlacek AL, Younker TP, Zhou YJ, Borghesi L, Shcheglova T, Mandoiu II, Binder RJ. (2019) CD91 on dendritic cells governs immunosurveillance of nascent, emerging tumors. JCI Insight. 4:7.

Binder RJ. (2019) Immunosurveillance of cancer and the heat shock protein-CD91 pathway. Cell Immunol. 2019 Sep;343:103814.

Kinner-Bibeau LA, Sedlacek AL, Messmer MN, Watkins SC and Binder, R.J. (2017). HSPs drive dichotomous T cell immune responses via DNA methylome remodelling in antigen presenting cells. Nat. Commun. 8, 15648 doi: 10.1038/ncomms15648.

Zhou YJ, Messmer MN, Binder RJ. (2014). Establishment of Tumor-Associated Immunity Requires Interaction of Heat Shock Proteins with CD91. Cancer Immunol Res. 2:217-228

Messmer MN, Pasmowitz J, Kropp LE, Watkins SC, Binder RJ. (2013). Identification of the Cellular Sentinels for Native Immunogenic Heat Shock Proteins In Vivo. J Immunol. 191:4456-4465.

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