University of South Florida

University of South Florida

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Gary Litman, PHD

Administrative Appointment: Endowed Chair


Associate Vice Dean for Research, Children's Research Institute, Pediatrics/Morsani College of Medicine

Vice Chairman for Basic Sciences, Pediatrics/Morsani College of Medicine

Director, Children's Research Institute, Pediatrics/Morsani College of Medicine

Distinguished University Professor, Pediatrics/Morsani College of Medicine

Professor, Pediatrics/Morsani College of Medicine

Academic Email :

Phone : (727) 553-3601

Office : CRI, 3008

Mailing address : 140 7th Avenue South CRI 3008
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

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  • PHD, Microbiology, University Of Minnesota, St. Paul, United States - 1972.
  • BA, Microbiology, University of Minnesota, USA - 1967.

Research summary

  • The immune system is the most complex genetic system described to date. Using a number of different approaches, studies conducted in our laboratory have identified key aspects of the development of the lymphoid system and are shedding light on the origins of mechanisms that create immune receptor diversity as well as the nature of those features of the genome that promote genetic recombination, a major factor in both immune diversity and cancer. Over the past several years, we have defined several extensively diversified families of putative immune receptors possessing distinct structural and regulatory features. In the process, we have identified alternative mechanisms for creating immune diversity, different forms of recognition that may function in innate immunity in humans and alternative pathways of receptor diversification. Novel innate immune molecules have been identified that potentially utilize alternative signaling pathways for mediating immune function and as such have enhanced our understanding of integration of regulatory networks that factor in host protection. Current efforts focus on two model systems, zebrafish and Ciona, that afford distinct experimental advantages. Zebrafish have been shown by us to possess two major novel families of immune receptor genes that encode variable region domains in addition to those that function in the mammalian-like adaptive immune system of this species. Although one of the gene families, novel immune-type receptors (NITRs), appears to encode natural killer (NK) receptors, the role of the other multigene family, diverse immunoglobulin domain-containing proteins (DICPs), presently is not understood. DICPs bind lipid ligands and lack a homolog outside of bony fish. Different transgenic approaches are being used to determine how these extraordinarily diverse genes function in innate immunity. The role of repetitive DNA in genome stability is being investigated in a zebrafish read-out model and efforts are being made to understand lipid binding as a basic mechanism in modulating innate immune function in the CD300/TREM gene families in higher vertebrate models. Ciona, a marine urochordate, is being developed as a model to study general features of gut immunity and serves as a gnotobiotic system that can be used to study microbial influences on inflammatory gut pathology in the absence of influences from the adaptive immune system which is not found outside of vertebrates. We have shown that the variable region-containing chitin-binding proteins (VCBPs) in Ciona function in phagocytosis and that these molecules may represent a determining factor in shaping the microbial communities of the gut. The immune phenotype of the dysbiotic gut and the Ciona colitis model are being investigated. Gene silencing approaches (including dietary introduction of dsRNA) are being evaluated as tools to dissect the role of various innate immune receptors in gut-mediated immune dynamics. Our laboratory has a longstanding interest in the molecular basis for primary immunodeficiency disease and has characterized genotype-phenotype relationships in X-linked agammaglobulinemia as well as the basis for antibody diversity in DiGeorge Syndrome. More recent efforts are focused on the role of gene conversion in the pathogenesis of selected B cell immunodeficiencies.

Selected Publications

Positions Held

  • Senior Member/Chairman (Molecular Genetics, Tampa Bay Research Institute 1985 - 1990)
  • Associate Professor (Immunology/Sloan-Kettering Division, Cornell University 1980 - 1985)
  • Chairman (Biology Unit/Sloan-Kettering Division, Cornell University 1978 - 1985)
  • Associate Professor (Genetics/Sloan-Kettering Division, Cornell University 1976 - 1985)
  • Director (Special Clinical Immunochemistry Laboratory, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center 1975 - 1985)
  • Associate Member/Head (Macromolecular Biochemistry Section, Sloan-Kettering Institute 1972 - 1985)
  • Associate Professor (Biology/Sloan-Kettering Division, Cornell University 1973 - 1980)
  • Assistant Professor (Pathology, University of Minnesota 1972 - 1972)
  • Director (Clinical Laboratory of Immunochemistry/Pathology, University of Minnesota 1971 - 1972)
  • Instructor (Pediatrics and Pathology, University of Minnesota 1970 - 1972)
  • Director (Clinical Laaboratory of Immunochemistry/Pediatrics, University of Minnesota 1969 - 1971)
  • Teaching Specialist (Pediatrics, University of Minnesota 1968 - 1970)
  • Research Assistant (Microbiology, University of Minnesota 1967 - 1968)

Interdisciplinary and Emerging Signature Programs

  • Allergy, Immunology & Infectious Disease.


  • The Henry Kunkel Society (Member, 2001 - Present)
  • American Society of Human Genetics (Member, 1990 - Present)
  • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Member, 1979 - Present)
  • International Society for Developmental and Comparative Immunology (Member, 1975 - Present)
  • American Association of Immunologists (Member, 1973 - Present)


  • Distinguished University Professor (University of South Florida - 2004)
  • Outstanding Faculty Research Achievement Award (University of South Florida - 2002)
  • Induction (The Henry Kunkel Society - 2001)
  • MERIT Award (NIH - 1995)

Patents & Licensing

  • BIVM (basic, immunoglobulin-like variable motif-containing) gene, transcriptional products, and uses (Litman, Hawke, Yoder, Eason - 2009)
  • Methods for profile transcriptomes (Dishaw, Litman, Haire - 2007)
  • BIVM (basic, immunoglobulin-like variable motif-containing) gene, transcriptional products, and uses (Litman, Hawke, Yoder, Eason - 2006)
  • Vector system for selection of genes encoding secreted proteins and membrane-bound proteins (Cannon, Haire, Litman - 2006)
  • DNA vector for determining the presence of out-of-reading-frame mutations (Litman, Hawke, Haire, Strong - 2001)


  • "Grand Rounds: Genomes, Genes and a Most Unusual Basis for Genetic Disease" University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics. FL, United States - 2012.
  • "The Human Genome: 10 Years and 247 Days Later" University of South Florida St. Petersburg. FL, United States - 2011.
  • "Genetics, Structure and Function of Novel Immune Receptors" Stanford University. CA, United States - 2010.
  • "Grand Rounds: Expanding Genome Potential: Alternative Mechanisms of Immune Receptor Diversification" University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics. FL, United States - 2010.
  • "The Evolution of Immune Receptor Diversity" Keyston Symposia. United Kingdom - 2010.
  • "Grand Rounds: Development of the Immune System" University of Florida College of Medicine. FL, United States - 2009.
  • "Genetics, Structure and Function of Novel Immune Receptors" Burnham Institute. CA, United States - 2009.
  • "Grand Rounds: The Growing Significance of Genome Science in Pediatric Medicine" Univsity of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics. FL, United States - 2008.
  • "Grand Rounds: Genomes and Genomic Medicine in Early 2008" All Children's Hospital. FL, United States - 2008.
  • "Alternative Mechanisms that Diversify Immune Systems" Stanford University. CA, United States - 2008.
  • "Alternative Patterns and Processes of Variable Region Diversification" Sunnybrook Helath Sciences Centre, University of Toronto. Canada - 2008.
  • "Amphioxus - A Celephalochordate Model for Understanding Alternative Forms of Immune Recognition" Aquatic Animal Models of Human Disease Conference. NC, United States - 2008.

Profile last modified on 01/26/2017