Cynthia Leifer, PhD

Dr. Cynthia Leifer

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Associate Professor of Immunology

Lab Website

Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
C5 153 VMC
Ithaca, NY 14853

Office: 607.253.4258

Research Interest

The Leifer lab uses multiple approaches from basic molecular biology to cell biology, and whole animal models, to address questions related to innate immunity, host defense, autoimmunity, biomaterials and biology of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) in these processes. We have made seminal contributions to our understanding of post-translational regulation of TLRs and how those modifications control signaling through this class of receptors. Recently, we have expanded into broader exploration of regulation of TLR-mediated inflammation and how disease associated changes in tissues modulate innate immune macrophage function, specifically how mechanics of the growth microenvironment regulate TLR signaling.


PhD (Weill Medical College, Cornell University)

Biography/Professional Experience

Dr. Leifer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Maryland College Park and her PhD from the Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences at Cornell. While a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda Maryland, she began work on the intracellular localization and trafficking of receptors critical for innate immune responses: Toll-like receptors. Her current research is on the regulation of TLRs and macrophages in driving host defense and autoimmune inflammation. She has obtained R01, R21, R25 and R03 funding from the NIAID, as well as K22 funding from the NCI. She is currently co-director of the Cornell PACE program that can be found at She is also co-host of the podcast Immune.


Gruber EJ, Leifer CA. Mechanoregulation of macrophages and TLR signaling. 2019 Innate Immunity. In press

Erika Gruber, Christa Heyward, Jody Cameron, Leifer CA. Toll-like receptor signaling in macrophages is regulated by extracellular substrate stiffness and Rho-associated coiled-coil kinase (ROCK1/2). International Immunology. Volume 30, Issue 6, June 2018, Pages 267–278

Leifer, CA, WA Rose, F Botelho. (2012). Traditional biochemical assays for studying Toll-like receptor 9. Journal of Immunoassays and Immunochemistry. DOI:10.1080/15321819.2012.666222.

Chockalingam A, WA Rose II, M Hasan, C Ju, CA Leifer. (2012). Cutting Edge: A Toll-like receptor 9 cytoplasmic tyrosine motif is selectively required for proinflammatory cytokine production. J. Immunology. 188:527-530.

Leifer CA, JC Brooks.  (2011).  Regulation of Nucleic acid sensing Toll-like receptors in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.  Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Edited by Hani Almoallim.   Published by Intech. ISBN 978-953-51-0266-3.

Hasan M, C Ruksznis, Y Wang, CA Leifer. 2011. Negative regulation of TLR3 signaling by an antimicrobial peptide. Journal of Immunology, 187:5653-5659. *Evaluated by Faculty of 1000.

Chockalingam A, Cameron JL, Brooks JC, CA Leifer.  (2011).  Negative regulation of signaling by a soluble form of toll-like receptor 9.  Eur. J. Immunology.   41:2176-2184***Featured as one of three articles selected for the “Frontline” section of the journal and in the EJI Commentary “TLR9 Regulation by proteolysis: A friend or foe” by Benedicte Manoury***

Ju CH, Chockalingam A, CA Leifer.  (2009).  Early response of mucosal epithelial cells during Toxoplasma gondii infection.  J. Immunology.  183:7420-7427.

Chockalingam A, Brooks JC, Cameron JL, Blum LK, CA Leifer.  (2009).  TLR9 traffics through the Golgi complex to localize to endolysosomes and respond to CpG DNA.  Immunology and Cell Biology.  87:209-217.

Awards and Honors

2017     Alice and Constance Cook Award for Empowering Women at Cornell

2016     Lab Travel Award to attend the annual American Association of Immunologists meeting

2015     Dolph O. Adams award for excellence in macrophage research, Society for Leukocyte Biology

2014     Distinguished Veterinary Teaching Award, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

2013     Phi Zeta Vet Honor Society, Honorary Member, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

2012     Pfizer Animal Health Award, given to one faculty member each year for excellence in research, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

2009     Junior Faculty Travel Award, American Association of Immunologists

2007 and 2009  Professional Development Award, Cornell University ADVANCE Program

Professional/Academic Affiliations