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 understanding autoimmune CD4 T cell responses in type 1 diabetes, and the engineering of monoclonal antibodies and chimeric antigen receptors for the restoration of immune tolerance.


  • 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
  • Chimeric Antigen Receptors


  • Vitamin D3-mediated resistance to a multiple sclerosis model disease depends on myeloid cell 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 synthesis and correlates with increased CD4+ T cell CTLA-4 expression.
    Spanier JA, Nashold FE, Nelson CD, Praska CE, Hayes CE.
    J Neuroimmunol. 2020 Jan 15;338:577105. doi: 10.1016/j.jneuroim.2019.577105. Epub 2019 Nov 7.
    PMID: 31731231
  • Programmed Death-1 Restrains the Germinal Center in Type 1 Diabetes.
    Martinov T, Swanson LA, Breed ER, Tucker CG, Dwyer AJ, Johnson JK, Mitchell JS, Sahli NL, Wilson JC, Singh LM, Hogquist KA, Spanier JA, Fife BT.
    J Immunol. 2019 Aug 15;203(4):844-852. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1801535. Epub 2019 Jul 19.
    PMID: 31324724
  • Increased Effector Memory Insulin-Specific CD4+ T Cells Correlate With Insulin Autoantibodies in Patients With Recent-Onset Type 1 Diabetes.
    Spanier JA, Sahli NL, Wilson JC, Martinov T, Dileepan T, Burrack AL, Finger EB, Blazar BR, Michels AW, Moran A, Jenkins MK, Fife BT.
    Diabetes. 2017 Dec;66(12):3051-3060. doi: 10.2337/db17-0666. Epub 2017 Aug 25.
    PMID: 28842400
  • Efficient generation of monoclonal antibodies against peptide in the context of MHCII using magnetic enrichment.
    Spanier JA, Frederick DR, Taylor JJ, Heffernan JR, Kotov DI, Martinov T, Osum KC, Ruggiero JL, Rust BJ, Landry SJ, Jenkins MK, McLachlan JB, Fife BT.
    Nat Commun. 2016 Jun 13;7:11804. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11804.
    PMID: 27292946
  • 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 acts directly on the T lymphocyte vitamin D receptor to inhibit experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.
    Mayne CG, Spanier JA, Relland LM, Williams CB, Hayes CE.
    Eur J Immunol. 2011 Mar;41(3):822-32. doi: 10.1002/eji.201040632. Epub 2011 Feb 1.
    PMID: 21287548


Academic Interests and Focus

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