A photo of Claire Chougnet.

Claire A. Chougnet, PhD

  • Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics



My main area of research is immune regulation, with two main focuses: 1) chronic immune system activation and 2) the ontogeny of the human immune system.

In the case of chronic activation, the delicate balance between immune effector responses and counter-activation is perturbed. My colleagues and I are pursuing studies of one of the principal mechanisms that modulate this balance, which is a subset of CD4+ T cells called regulatory T cells. We study the biology and function of these cells in the setting of acute and chronic immune activation (HIV infection, aging and fetal inflammation). In particular, my team and I were one of the first to show that the frequency of regulatory T cells increases during chronic HIV infection or aging, which prevents many aspects of harmful, unregulated inflammation. However, it acts as a double-edge sword, blunting other immune responses to other pathogens or vaccines.

The second major problem we study is the ontogeny of the human immune system, and how it reacts to infection and inflammation. Recent findings from my laboratory and others have shown that the human fetal immune system is not inactive, and it starts reacting early on to inflammation and pathogens, but differently when compared to the adult version. This knowledge is the basis of the novel theory of the “fetal origins of diseases,” e.g., early exposure to antigens and inflammation, and the responses it elicits, may shape long-term responsiveness. However, many aspects are still unknown due to the difficulty in obtaining samples in humans. We mainly use non-human primate models to address these questions.
Most of my work is conducted in multi-disciplinary teams. This collaboration is especially necessary when working with human subjects or large animal models, such as non-human primates. The constant interactions with different colleagues, clinicians, statisticians, bio-informaticians and other basic scientists are among the most stimulating and remarkable aspects of my job.

I first joined the team at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 2001. My research has been published in numerous journals ,including JCI Insights, Blood, Frontiers in Immunology, PLoS ONE, Journal of immunology and The Journal of Pediatrics.


Fetal maturation revealed by amniotic fluid cell-free transcriptome in rhesus macaques. Schmidt, AF; Schnell, DJ; Eaton, KP; Chetal, K; Kannan, PS; Miller, LA; Chougnet, CA; Swarr, DT; Jobe, AH; Salomonis, N; et al. JCI insight. 2022; 7.

Prenatal antibiotics exposure does not influence experimental allergic asthma in mice. Lingel, I; Wilburn, AN; Hargis, J; McAlees, JW; Laumonnier, Y; Chougnet, CA; Deshmukh, H; König, P; Lewkowich, IP; Schmudde, I. Frontiers in Immunology. 2022; 13.

The balance between protective and pathogenic immune responses to pneumonia in the neonatal lung is enforced by gut microbiota. Stevens, J; Steinmeyer, S; Bonfield, M; Peterson, L; Wang, T; Gray, J; Lewkowich, I; Xu, Y; Du, Y; Guo, M; et al. Science Translational Medicine. 2022; 14.

A potent myeloid response is rapidly activated in the lungs of premature Rhesus macaques exposed to intra-uterine inflammation. Jackson, CM; Demmert, M; Mukherjee, S; Isaacs, T; Thompson, R; Chastain, C; Gray, J; Senthamaraikannan, P; Presicce, P; Chetal, K; et al. Mucosal Immunology. 2022; 15:730-744.

Inflammatory blockade prevents injury to the developing pulmonary gas exchange surface in preterm primates. Toth, A; Steinmeyer, S; Kannan, P; Gray, J; Jackson, CM; Mukherjee, S; Demmert, M; Sheak, JR; Benson, D; Kitzmiller, J; et al. Science Translational Medicine. 2022; 14.

Cytomegalovirus Infection Is Associated With Increased Prevalence of Latent Tuberculosis Infection. van der Heijden, YF; Zhang, B; Chougnet, CA; Huaman, MA. Open Forum Infectious Diseases. 2021; 8.

Implications of Inflammatory States on Dysfunctional Immune Responses in Aging and Obesity. Thomas, AL; Alarcon, PC; Divanovic, S; Chougnet, CA; Hildeman, DA; Moreno-Fernandez, ME. 2021; 2.

The induction of preterm labor in rhesus macaques is determined by the  strength of immune response to intrauterine infection. Cappelletti, M; Presicce, P; Feiyang, M; Senthamaraikannan, P; Miller, LA; Pellegrini, M; Sim, MS; Jobe, AH; Divanovic, S; Way, SS; et al. PLoS Biology. 2021; 19.

Aging mitigates the severity of obesity-associated metabolic sequelae in a gender independent manner. Moreno-Fernandez, ME; Sharma, V; Stankiewicz, TE; Oates, JR; Doll, JR; Damen, MS M A; Almanan, MA T A; Chougnet, CA; Hildeman, DA; Divanovic, S. Nutrition and Diabetes. 2021; 11.

Prenatal inflammation enhances antenatal corticosteroid-induced fetal lung maturation. Schmidt, AF; Kannan, PS; Bridges, J; Presicce, P; Jackson, CM; Miller, LA; Kallapur, SG; Chougnet, CA; Jobe, AH. JCI insight. 2020; 5.

From the Blog

Claire Chougnet Named as Inaugural Margaret K. Hostetter Endowed Chair
Autoimmune Disorders

Claire Chougnet Named as Inaugural Margaret K. Hostetter Endowed Chair

Claire A. Chougnet, PhD8/3/2021