Joan S. Hunt, PhD

Professor Emeritus
Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology

Ph.D.: 1983, University of Kansas School of Medicine
D.Sc.(HON): 2002, University of Guelph

Recent Honors:

2000 University Distinguished Professor
2001 NIH Distinguished National Service Award (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Burroughs-Wellcome Foundation, Marine Biology Laboratory)
2002 Doctor of Science honoris causa, University of Guelph, Canada
2002 Top Ten Researcher, KUMC Research Institute, Inc.
2003 Beacon Award, Frontiers in Reproduction (NICHD, Burroughs-Wellcome)
2006 Board of Directors, Frontiers in Reproduction, Marine Biology Laboratory
2006 Advancement Board, Kansas University Endowment Association
2006 Alumnae Advisory Board, Department of Biology, University of Kansas
2006 Senior Investigator NIH Lecture Award, International Federation of Placenta Associations, Kobe, Japan
2007 University of Kansas Women's Hall of Fame
2007 Corporate Board, Marine Biology Laboratories


Recent Positions:

2002-2005 Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, School of Medicine, KUMC
2004-2005 Vice Chancellor for Research, KUMC
2005-2006 President, KUMC Research Institute
2007-pres. Vice Chancellor for Biomedical Research Infrastructure


placenta diagramOur work focuses on immunological aspects of pregnancy. In one project, we study macrophages and other leukocytes in the uterus and placenta with the goal of learning how special conditions of pregnancy might influence their functions. In earlier studies we discovered that progesterone, a major steroid hormone of pregnancy derived from the mother's ovaries or from the placenta, drives these cells into an immunosuppressive phenotype appropriate to avoiding destructive maternal immune responses to the fetus. More recently, we have learned that a novel major histocompatibility complex (MHC) antigen called Human Leukocyte Antigen-G (HLA-G), which is produced in placentas, is also capable of helping in the development of an immunosuppressive environment at the maternal-fetal interface. Thus, the placenta plays a major role in developing uteroplacental immune privilege. In order to study how HLA-G achieves immunosuppression we have produced recombinant proteins and monoclonal antibodies to learn about two isoforms of HLA-G, both of which are produced as soluble proteins. In collaboration with investigators at the University of Kyushu, Japan, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland and the University of Chicago we are defining the cell-specific locations of cells in the placenta and maternal uterus that express receptors for HLA-G, are working toward evaluation of the crystal structures of HLA-G and are determining genetic patterns for receptor expression. In a second project we are studying another gene family expressed in placentas, the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) supergene family, some members of which appear to be involved in both the immunology of pregnancy and in facilitating growth and development of the placenta. These experiments focus in part on genetically modified mice.

Goals of the K-INBREHunt offices also house the Kansas Institutional Network for Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE), a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant awarded to Hunt that supports (1) the development of students interested in biomedical research, (2) faculty efforts to improve competitiveness for NIH research funds, and (3) biomedical research infrastructure such as bioinformatics. All efforts are networked into 10 campuses across Kansas and Oklahoma. involved in biomedical researchat 10 institutions. Within these offices resides the Kansas Institutional Development Award (IdeA) effort for the State of Kansas, which brings together researchers from three of the major campuses in Kansas, Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas University in Lawrence, and Kansas State University in Manhattan. Dr. Hunt serves as chair.

Recent Publications

  1. Hunt, J. S., M. G. Petroff, R. H. McIntire, and C. Ober. 2005. Invited review. HLA-G and immune tolerance in pregnancy. FASEB J. 19:681-693.
  2. Nicolae, D., N. J. Cox, L. A. Lester, D. Schneider, Z. Tan, C. Billstrand, S. Kuldanek, J. Donfack, P. Kogut, N. M. Patel, J. Goodenbour, T. Howard, R. Wolf, G. H. Koppelman, S. R. White, R. Parry, D. S. Postma, D. Meyers, E. R. Bleeker, J. S. Hunt, J. Solway, and C. Ober. 2005. Fine mapping and positional candidate studies identify HLA-G as an asthma susceptibility gene on chromosome 6p21. Am. J. Human Genet. 76:349-357.
  3. Hunt, J. S., and D. E. Geraghty. 2005. Commentary. Soluble HLA-G isoforms, HLA-G5 and HLA-G6: technical deficiencies lead to misinterpretations. Mol. Hum. Reprod. 11:715-717.
  4. Holets, M. L., J. S. Hunt, and M. G. Petroff. 2005. Trophoblast B7-H1 is differentially expressed across gestation: influence of oxygen concentration. Biol. Reprod. 74:352-358.
  5. Ka, H., and J. S. Hunt. 2006. FLICE-inhibitory protein: expression and in early and late gestation human placentas. Placenta 27:626-634.
  6. Langat, D. K., S. J. Platt, O. Tawfik, A. T. Fazleabas, and J. S. Hunt. 2006. Differential expression of human leukocyte antigen-G (HLA-G) messenger RNAs and proteins in normal human prostate and prostatic tumors. J. Reprod. Immunol. 71:75-86.
  7. Hunt, J.S. 2006. Stranger in a strange land. Immunol. Rev. 213:36-47.
  8. Langat, D. K., J. S. Platt, O. Tawfik, A. T. Fazleabas, and J. S. Hunt. 2006. Differential expression of human leukocyte antigen-G (HLA-G) messenger RNAs and proteins in normal human prostate and prostatic adenocarcinoma. J. Reprod. Immunol.71(1):75-86.
  9. Gill, R. M., N. Coleman, and J. S. Hunt. 2007. Differential cellular expression of LIGHT and its receptors in early gestation human placentas. J. Reprod. Immunol. 74:1-6.
  10. Morales, P. J., J. L. Pace, J. S. Platt, D. K. Langat, and J. S. Hunt. 2007. Synthesis of b2-microglobulin-free, disulfide-linked HLA-G5 homodimers in human placental villous cytotrophoblast cells. Immunology, in press. [Epub ahead of print]
  11. Hunt, J. S., P. J. Morales, J. L. Pace, A. T. Fazleabas, and D. K. Langat. 2007. A commentary on gestational programming of HLA-G and its functions in pregnancy. Placenta Suppl A:S57-63.

Associates and Staff

In the Office...

members of the Hunt lab office staff
Left to right: Lyon, Hunt, van Erp, Chapman

In the Lab...

members of the Hunt labLeft to right: Wheaton, Hunt, Langat, Pace (Sifers, not shown)

Heiata Chapman
Assistant Director, Kansas INBRE
(NIH 1 P20 RR01647-07)

Jan Lyon
Administrative Assistant, Kansas INBRE
(NIH 1 P20 RR01647-07)

Renee van Erp
Senior Program Manager, Kansas IDeA program

Daudi Langat
Research Assistant Professor: Head HLA project
(PO1 HD049480)

Judy Pace
Senior Research Associate: Head, BAFF/APRIL project (RO1 HD24212)

David Wheaton
Research Associate: HLA project (PO1 HD049480)

Travis Sifers
Research Assistant: BAFF/APRIL project (RO1 HD24212)

Last modified: Apr 15, 2014

Joan S. Hunt, PhD


Joan S. Hunt, PhD
Professor Emeritus

Mailstop 3050
3901 Rainbow Boulevard
Kansas City, KS 66160

P: (913) 588-7270