A photo of Joseph Qualls.

Associate Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics


Biography & Affiliation


My interest in immunometabolism research began as I finished my graduate studies on the immunology of inflammatory bowel diseases. I observed that macrophages in the large intestine expressed two enzymes that metabolized the amino acid L-arginine in distinct directions. This finding seemed paradoxical, leading to polarized macrophage functions including 1) host defense and inflammation, and 2) wound repair and inflammation resolution.

I was intrigued that the availability of this small molecule had the potential to regulate immune function. I decided to further my understanding of L-arginine in my postdoctoral fellowship, where I helped define how the metabolism of this amino acid was regulated and its impact on tumor immunology and host defense responses, especially in the context of mycobacterial infections.

As I continue this research in my laboratory, I plan to:

  • Explore how L-arginine uptake, synthesis, and utilization, orchestrate immune function when challenged with Mycobacterium tuberculosis and other intracellular bacteria
  • Analyze how intracellular and intercellular amino acid metabolism regulates immunology and host defense responses involving macrophages, dendritic cells, and T cells
  • Examine other central metabolic pathways, including the contribution of lactate metabolism – a key process during aerobic glycolysis – on macrophage function and host defense responses

Our long-term research objective is to define the interplay between metabolism and immune responses, specifically those relevant to anti-pathogen immunity. We envision a better understanding of immunometabolism may uncover novel therapeutic strategies to assist in fighting disease.

My career at Cincinnati Children’s began in 2012, and I have well over a decade of research experience. I was honored to work with wonderful mentors, including Dr. Donald A. Cohen, PhD, during my graduate training at the University of Kentucky, and Dr. Peter J. Murray, PhD, as a postdoctoral fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

I previously held a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during my postdoctoral training, and I have been extramurally funded to pursue our independent research objectives since 2015. As a trainee, I served as vice-chair of mentoring activities for the Postdoctoral Association Council and was a member of the Education Programs Committee. In addition to my current research endeavors, I teach within various immunology and microbiology courses across campus. I am a training faculty member within the Immunology Graduate Program, and I currently serve on internal grant study sections and as an ad hoc reviewer for numerous journals. Outside of the hospital, I serve as the Diversity Coordinator and Executive Council Member for the annual Autumn Immunology Conference.

Academic Affiliation

Associate Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics


Infectious Diseases


BA: Thomas More College, Crestview Hills, KY, 2002.

PhD: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 2007.

Postdoctoral Fellowship: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, TN, 2012.


Cell type-specific mechanisms coupling protease-activated receptor-1 to infectious colitis pathogenesis. Boucher, AA; Rosenfeldt, L; Mureb, D; Shafer, J; Sharma, BK; Lane, A; Crowther, RR; McKell, MC; Whitt, J; Alenghat, T; et al. Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis. 2020; 18:91-103.

Macrophage Function in the Pathogenesis of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: The Mac Attack. Oates, JR; McKell, MC; Moreno-Fernandez, ME; Damen, MS M A; Deepe, GS; Qualls, JE; Divanovic, S. Frontiers in Immunology. 2019; 10.

L-Arginine Synthesis from L-Citrulline in Myeloid Cells Drives Host Defense against Mycobacteria In Vivo. Lange, SM; McKell, MC; Schmidt, SM; Zhao, J; Crowther, RR; Green, LC; Bricker, RL; Arnett, E; Kohler, SE; Schlesinger, LS; et al. Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950). 2019; 202:1747-1754.

L-citrulline Metabolism in Mice augments cD4(+) T cell Proliferation and cytokine Production In Vitro, and accumulation in the Mycobacteria-infected lung. Lange, SM; McKell, MC; Schmidt, SM; Hossfeld, AP; Chaturvedi, V; Kinder, JM; McAlees, JW; Lewkowich, IP; Way, SS; Turner, J; et al. Frontiers in Immunology. 2017; 8.

CD44 variant isoform 9 emerges in response to injury and contributes to the regeneration of the gastric epithelium. Bertaux-Skeirik, N; Wunderlich, M; Teal, E; Chakrabarti, J; Biesiada, J; Mahe, M; Sundaram, N; Gabre, J; Hawkins, J; Jian, G; et al. The Journal of pathology and bacteriology. 2017; 242:463-475.

T Cells Encountering Myeloid Cells Programmed for Amino Acid-dependent Immunosuppression Use Rictor/mTORC2 Protein for Proliferative Checkpoint Decisions. Van de Velde, L; Subramanian, C; Smith, AM; Barron, L; Qualls, JE; Neale, G; Alfonso-Pecchio, A; Jackowski, S; Rock, CO; Wynn, TA; et al. The Journal of biological chemistry. 2017; 292:15-30.

T Cell Cancer Therapy Requires CD40-CD40L Activation of Tumor Necrosis Factor and Inducible Nitric-Oxide-Synthase-Producing Dendritic Cells. Marigo, I; Zilio, S; Desantis, G; Mlecnik, B; Agnellini, AH R; Ugel, S; Sasso, MS; Qualls, JE; Kratochvill, F; Zanovello, P; et al. Cancer Cell. 2016; 30:377-390.

Immunometabolism within the tuberculosis granuloma: amino acids, hypoxia, and cellular respiration. Qualls, JE; Murray, PJ. Springer Seminars in Immunopathology. 2016; 38:139-152.

Differential Requirements for L-Citrulline and L-Arginine during Antimycobacterial Macrophage Activity. Rapovy, SM; Zhao, J; Bricker, RL; Schmidt, SM; Setchell, KD R; Qualls, JE. Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950). 2015; 195:3293-3300.

TNF Counterbalances the Emergence of M2 Tumor Macrophages. Kratochvill, F; Neale, G; Haverkamp, JM; Van de Velde, L; Smith, AM; Kawauchi, D; McEvoy, J; Roussel, MF; Dyer, MA; Qualls, JE; et al. Cell Reports. 2015; 12:1902-1914.