Skip to main content

David Stephen Pisetsky

Professor of Medicine
Medicine, Rheumatology and Immunology
VA Med Ctr, 508 Fulton St, Durham, NC 27705
VA Med Ctr, 508 Fulton St, Durham, NC


Studies in my laboratory concern the immunological properties of DNA as related to two main topics: 1) the induction of anti-DNA responses in systemic lupus erythematosus; and 2) the stimulation of innate immunity by bacterial DNA. These topics are closely linked since we have established novel disease models in which lupus-like illness can be induced in normal mice by bacterial DNA under conditions in which mammalian DNA is inactive. This model has been useful in elucidating mechanisms of DNA antigen drive in autoimmunity.

To pursue these studies, our laboratory conducts investigations in the following areas: 1) specificity of anti-DNA for epitopes on mammalian and bacterial DNA; 2) molecular analysis of murine monoclonal anti-DNA antibodies; 3) histopathological analyses of DNA-immunized mice; 4) in vitro analysis of proliferation, antibody production and cytokine expression in human and murine immune cells; and 5) analysis of DNA binding to cell surface molecules on B cells, T cells and macrophages. Results of these studies have allowed identification of at least two structural motifs that are immunoactive. We are also exploring the impact of chemical modifications of the DNA backbone.

In addition to work on the immunology of DNA, I am also involved in clinical trials related to new immunomodulatory agents in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis as well as serological markers of disease activity.

The areas of research for which I am known nationally are anti-DNA antibodies, systemic lupus erythematosus and immunological properties of DNA. I have written textbook chapters and reviews on all these subjects.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Professor of Medicine · 1990 - Present Medicine, Rheumatology and Immunology, Medicine
Professor of Integrative Immunobiology · 1994 - Present Integrative Immunobiology, Basic Science Departments
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute · 1978 - Present Duke Cancer Institute, Institutes and Centers
Member of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute · 2014 - Present Duke Human Vaccine Institute, Institutes and Centers

Education, Training & Certifications

Yeshiva University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine · 1973 M.D.
Yeshiva University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine · 1972 Ph.D.