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Franck Barrat, PhD

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Photo of Dr. Barrat

Franck Barrat, PhD

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Research Description


The main interest of the lab is centered on the basic understanding of nucleic acid recognition in autoimmunity and in particular on the potential clinical benefit of interfering with Toll Like Receptor (TLR) signaling in human diseases.  We are using both human and mouse approaches and have focused on the role of the nucleic-acid specific TLR7, TLR8 and TLR9 in inflammation. The other main focus of the lab is to better understand the biology of human plasmacytoid dendritic cells (PDC). 

The innate immune system faces the same fundamental challenge as the adaptive immune system -distinguishing self- from non–self-antigens. There is now considerable evidence that self-recognition through TLR can occur and can contribute significantly to sterile inflammation and autoimmunity. This seems well established for the four TLRs specific for nucleic acids and their strict compartmentalization in endosomes appears to be the major mechanism to prevent self-reactivity to host nucleic acids. This mechanism however fails when nucleic acids are not degraded fast enough, are presented to the cells in the form of immune complexes or bound to cationic peptides and when there is an excessive expression of the sensing TLR. In particular, there is a strong rationale linking the activation of TLR7&9 in lupus. The lab is working on the impact of self-nucleic acid recognition by TLR7&9 in cutaneous and systemic inflammation and we have developed novel oligonucleotide-based inhibitors of TLR7&9 which are currently being tested in a trial in lupus patients. The lab is now focusing on the function and role of TLR8 in inflammation. TLR8 signaling induces important inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 and TNF, and TLR8 is expressed by multiple cell types involved in inflammatory diseases. However, the lack of useful rodent models - a consequence of the very different ligand specificity of human TLR8 and its rodent orthologs - has proven to be a major limitation in the study of TLR8 biology.  The lab is developing new tools to study this receptor in patients with autoimmune diseases but also in vivo using novel approaches to circumvent the lack of function in mouse models.  

Human PDC represent a link between innate and adaptive immunity. They can either produce massive amount of type I IFN and participate in anti-viral responses or they can mature, by expressing costimulatory molecules and losing their plasmacytoid morphology, to become effective antigen presenting cells that activate T cells.  We have shown that these 2 functions are induced following TLR signaling and can be differentially affected by the cytokine milieu and by the signaling molecules involved in the TLR pathway. We also described that endosomal location – not physical form or valency –is the primary determinant of the signaling pathway utilized by TLR9 in human PDC. This unique role of PDC in immunity is a main interest in the lab and is at the basis of many potential clinical applications in particular for the treatment of cancer, allergies and viral infections.

Industry Relationships

One of the goals of HSS is to advance the science of orthopedic surgery, rheumatology, and related disciplines for the benefit of patients. Research staff at HSS may collaborate with outside companies for education, research and medical advances. HSS supports this collaboration in order to foster medical breakthroughs; however, HSS also believes that these collaborations must be disclosed.

As part of the disclosure process, this website lists Research staff collaborations with outside companies if the Research staff member received any payment during the prior year or expects to receive any payment in the next year. The disclosures are based on information provided by the Research staff and other sources and are updated regularly. Current ownership interests and leadership positions are also listed. Further information may be available on individual company websites.

Below are the healthcare industry relationships reported by Dr. Barrat as of April 27, 2020.

  • Dynavax Technologies - Ownership interest

By disclosing the collaborations of HSS Research staff with industry on this website, HSS and its Research staff make this information available to patients and the public, thus creating a transparent environment for those who are interested in this information. Further, the HSS Conflicts of Interest Policy does not permit payment of royalties on products developed by him/her that are used on patients at HSS.

Feel free to ask the Research staff member about their relationship(s).

Education Description

Bachelor's Degree in Biochemistry at University of Nice (France)

Master's Degree (Diplome d'Etude Approfondie) in Immunology at the Pasteur Institute (France)

Master's Degree in Pharmacology (Magistère) at University of Nice (France)

Ph.D. in Immunology at University of Paris 7 (France)

Selected Publications

Ah Kioon M.D., Tripodo C., Fernandez D., Kirou K.A., Spiera R.F., Crow M.K., Gordon J.K. and Barrat F.J. (2018). Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells Promote Systemic Sclerosis with a Key Role for TLR8. Science Transl Med. 10(423). 

Karreci E.S., Fan H., Uehara M., Mihali A., Singh P.K., Kurdi A., Solhjou Z., Riella L., Ghobriel I., Laragione T., Routray S., Assaker J.P., Wang R., Sukenick G., Shi L., Barrat F.J., Nathan C.F., Lin G. and Azzi J. (2016). Brief Treatment with a Highly Selective Immunoproteasome Inhibitor Promotes Long-Term Cardiac Allograft Acceptance in Mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 113:E8425-E8432

Guiducci C., Gong M., Cepika A.M., Xu Z., Tripodo C., Bennett L., Crain C., Quartier P., Cush J.J, Pascual V., Coffman R.L. and Barrat F.J. (2013). RNA recognition by human TLR8 can lead to autoimmune inflammation. J. Exp. Med. 210:2903-19

Kader M., Smith A.P., Guiducci C., Watkins S.C., Barrat F.J. and Barratt-Boyes S.M. (2013). Establishment of immune activation in pathogenic SIV infection independent of functioning plasmacytoid dendritic cells. PLoS Pathogens. 9:e1003530

Guiducci C., Tripodo C., Gong M., Sangaletti S., Colombo M.P., Coffman R.L. and Barrat F.J. (2010). TLR Recognition of Self Nucleic Acids Promotes Autoimmune Skin Inflammation via Activation of Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells. J. Exp. Med. 207:2931-42

Guiducci C., Gong M., Xu Z., Gill M., Chaussabel D., Meeker T., Chan J.H., Wright T., Punaro M., Bolland S., Soumelis V., Banchereau J., Coffman R.L., Pascual V. and Barrat F.J. (2010). TLR Recognition of Self Nucleic Acids Hampers Glucocorticoids Activity in lupus. Nature. 465:937-41

Guiducci C., Ott G., Chan J.H., Damon E., Calacsan C., Matray T., Lee K.D., Coffman R.L. and Barrat F.J. (2006).  Properties Regulating the Nature of Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells Response to TLR9 Activation. J.Exp.Med. 203:1999-2008

Barrat F.J., Meeker T., Gregorio J., Chan J.H., Uematsu S., Akira S., Chang B., Duramad O. and Coffman R.L. (2005). Nucleic Acids of Mammalian Origin Can Act as Endogenous Ligands for Toll-like Receptors and May Promote Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. J.Exp.Med. 202: 1131-1139 

Barrat F.J., Cua D.J., Boonstra A., Richards D.F., Crain C., Savelkoul H.F., de Waal Malefyt R., Coffman R.L., Hawrylowicz C.M. and O'Garra A. (2002). In vitro generation of IL-10 producing regulatory CD4+ T cells is induced by immunosuppressive drugs and inhibited by Th1 and Th2-inducing cytokines. J.Exp.Med. 195: 603-616      
Barrat F.J., Le Deist F., Benkerrou M., Bousso P., Feldmann J., Fischer A. and de Saint Basile G. (1999). Defective CTLA-4 cycling pathway in Chediak-Higashi Syndrome: a possible mechanism for deregulation of T lymphocyte activation. Proc Natl Acad Sci 96: 8645-8650    

For more publications, please see the PubMed listing.


Michael R. Bloomberg Chair, Hospital for Special Surgery
Senior Scientist, Hospital for Special Surgery
Member, David Z. Rosensweig Center for Genomics Research, Hospital for Special Surgery
Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Weill Cornell Medical College
Faculty of the Immunology & Microbial Pathogenesis Graduate Program, Weill Cornell Medical College