Justin Spanier, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases

Justin Spanier

Contact Info

Office Phone 612-624-6149

Mailing Address:
3-240 WMBB
2101 6th St SE
Minneapolis MN 55414

Lab Address:
3-240 WMBB
2101 6th St SE
Minneapolis MN 55414

Administrative Email

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatic and Autoimmune Diseases

PhD, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI

Master's Degree, University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN

Bachelor's Degree, University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN


Dr. Spanier received his BS degree in Cell Biology ('03) and MS degree in Biology ('06) from the University of Minnesota Duluth. While in Duluth Dr. Spanier's research was focused on nutrient transporters in endothelial cells within the blood-brain barrier. Dr. Spanier then moved to the University of Wisconsin Madison where he received a PhD in Biochemistry in 2012. It was in Madison that Dr. Spanier developed his skills in immunology and a passion for understanding autoimmune disease, where his research focused on how vitamin D influences the immune system in context of Multiple Sclerosis. In 2013 Dr. Spanier joined the laboratory of Dr. Brian Fife at the University of Minnesota Center for Immunology. It was here that he began building molecular tools, called peptide:MHCII tetramers, to understand antigen specific responses in both people and mice with autoimmune diabetes. Dr. Spanier's current research program is focused on generating new tetramer reagents and monoclonal antibodies for research and clinical application in context of type 1 diabetes and cancer associate autoimmunity.


  • Clinical Immunology
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • peptide:MHCII tetramers
  • vitamin D
  • mouse models

Awards & Recognition

  • Outstanding Postdoctoral Scholar Award (honorable mention), University of Minnesota Postdoctoral Association. September (2015)
  • American Association of Immunologists Trainee Abstract Award, AAI Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA, May (2015)
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. July (2014)
  • T32 training grant recipient, NIH Training Grant in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, U of MN, Dept. of Medicine, (2013)
  • American Association of Immunologist Young Investigator Award, Autumn Immunology Conference, Chicago, IL, (2013).


Research Summary/Interests

  • Clinical Immunology
  • Autoimmune Diabetes
  • peptide:MHCII tetramers
  • vitamin D
  • monoclonal antibodies


  • Schuldt, N.J., Auger, J.L., Spanier, J.A., Martinov, T., Breed, E.R., Fife, B.T., Hogquist, K.A., Binstadt, B.A., Cutting Edge: Dual TCR? expression poses an autoimmune hazard by limiting regulatory T cell generation. Journal Immunology, In Press, 2017
  • Jiang, T.T, Martinov, T., Xin, L., Kinder, J.M., Spanier, J.A., Fife, B.T., Way, S.S. Programmed death-1 culls peripheral accumulation of high-affinity autoreactive CD4 T cells to protect against autoimmunity. Cell Reports, 17(7):1783-1794, 2016
  • Spanier, J.A., Frederick, D.R., Taylor, J.J., Heffernan, J.R., Kotov, D.I., Martinov, T., Ruggiero, J.L., Osum, K.O., Rust, B.J., Landry, S.J., Jenkins, M.K., McLachlan, J.B., Fife, B.T., Efficient generation of monoclonal antibodies against peptide in the context of MHCII using magnetic enrichment. Nature Communications, 7:11804, 2016
  • Boontanrart, M., Hall, S.D., Spanier, J.A., Hayes, C.E., Olson, J.K., Vitamin D3 alters microglia immune activation by an IL-10 dependent SOCS3 mechanism. Journal Neuroimmunology, 292:126-136, 2016.
  • Martinov T., Spanier J.A., Pauken K.E., Fife B.T., PD-1 pathway-mediated regulation of islet-specific CD4+ T cell subsets in autoimmune diabetes. Immunoendocrinology, 3: e1164, 2016
  • Spanier, J.A., Nashold, F.E., Mayne, C.G., Nelson, C.D., Hayes, C.E. Vitamin D and estrogen synergy in Vdr-expressing CD4+ T cells is essential to induce Helios+FoxP3+ T cells and prevent autoimmune demyelinating disease. Journal Neuroimmunology, 286:48-58, 2015.
  • Pauken, K.E., Nelson, C.E., Martinov, T., Spanier, J.A., Heffernan, J.R., Sahli, N.L., Quarnstrom, C.F., Osum, K.C., Schenkel, J.M., Jenkins, M.K., Blazar, B.R., Vezys, V., Fife, B.T. Cutting Edge: identification of autoreactive CD4+ and CD8+ T cell subsets resistant to PD-1 pathway blockade. Journal Immunology, 194(8):3551-3555, 2015
  • Nelson, R.W., Beisang, D., Tubo, N.J., Dileepan, T., Wiesner, D.L., Nielsen, K., Wüthrich, M., Klein, B.S., Kotov, D.I., Spanier, J.A., Fife, B.T., Moon, J.J., Jenkins, M.K. T cell receptor cross-reactivity between similar foreign and self peptides influences naïve cell population size and autoimmunity. Immunity, 42(1):95-107, 2015
  • Pauken, K.E., Linehan, J.L., Spanier, J.A., Sahli, N.L., Kalekar, L., Binstadt, B.A., Moon, J.J., Mueller, D.L., Jenkins, M.K., Fife, B.T. Cutting Edge: type 1 diabetes occurs despite robust anergy among endogenous insulin-specific CD4 T cells in NOD mice. Journal Immunology, 191(10):4913-4917, 2013.
  • Spanier, J.A., Nashold, F.E., Olson, J.K., Hayes, C.E. The Ifng gene is essential for Vdr gene expression and vitamin D3-mediated reduction of the pathogenic T cell burden in the CNS in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, a multiple sclerosis model. Journal Immunology, 189(6):3188-3197, 2012. Mayne, C.G., Spanier, J.A.*, Relland, L., Williams, C.B., Hayes, C.E. 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 acts directly on T lymphocytes to inhibit experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. European Journal Immunology, 41:822-832, 2011. (*Co-first author)
  • Nashold, F.E., Spanier, J.A., Spach, K.M., Hayes, C.E., Estrogen controls vitamin D3-mediated resistance to experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis by controlling vitamin D3 metabolism and receptor expression. Journal Immunology, 183(6):3672-3681, 2009.
  • Hayes, C.E., Spanier, J.A., “Multiple sclerosis in women: vitamin D and estrogen synergy for autoimmune T cell regulation and demyelinating disease prevention”, Nutrition and Lifestyle in Neurological Autoimmune Diseases: Multiple Sclerosis, R.R. Watson and W.D.S Killgore (Eds.), Academic Press, San Diego, CA, In Press, 2017.
  • Hayes, C.E., Nelson, C.D., Spanier, J.A., “Vitamin D and Autoimmune Disease”, Vitamin D: Oxidation, Immunity, and Aging (Oxidative Stress and Disease), A. Gombart (Ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, Chapter 11, pp. 239-306, 2012.
  • Hayes, C.E., Nashold, F.E., Mayne, C.G., Spanier, J.A., Nelson, C.D., “Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis”, Vitamin D, Third Edition, D. Felman, J. Pike, and J. Adams (Eds.), Elsevier, San Diego, CA, Chapter 95, pp. 1843 – 1877, 2011.
  • Spanier, J.A. and Drewes, L.R. “Monocarboxylate Transporters”, Drug Transporters: Molecular Characterization and Role in Drug Disposition. Y. Goufeng & M.E. Morris (Eds.), Wiley-Interscience Hoboken, NJ, pp. 147-170, 2007.


Academic Interests and Focus

Biochemical Methods Seminar; Topics in Medical Biochemistry ; Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory; Developmental Biology Laboratory; General Biology Laboratory