Claudia Kemper, Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Complement and Inflammation Research


10 Center Dr
Bethesda, MD 20814
United States


Research Topics

Our laboratory aims at understanding the unexpected roles of intracellularly active complement in the regulation of key basic processes of the cell in health and disease.

Complement is generally well appreciated as a serum-effective system and critical arm of innate immunity required for the detection and removal of invading pathogens. Work from Dr. Kemper's lab, however, has highlighted an equally profound impact of complement on adaptive immunity through direct regulation of CD4+ T cells: signals mediated by T cell-expressed anaphylatoxin receptor C3aR and the complement regulator CD46 (which binds the complement activation fragment C3b) are critical checkpoints in human T cell lineage commitment and control initiation and resolution of inflammatory Th1 responses. Further, they have discovered that activation of the key complement components C3 and C5 is not confined to the extracellular space but occurs intracellulary (the ‘Complosome’) and that intracellular C3 and C5 activation fundamentally dictates the magnitude of Th1-mediated inflammation, the production of granzyme B and IFN-g by cytotoxic CD8+ T cells and the secretion of highly proinflammatory IL-1b by monocytes and macrophages. Consequently, perturbations in complosome activity in immune cells contributes majorly to a range of human disease states, including recurrent infections, autoimmunity (arthritis, SLE, CAPS, and scleroderma), chronic organ rejection, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

Likely the most exciting recent development in their work is the observation that intracellular C3 and C5 are unexpected critical orchestrators of basic cellular processes, including the control of cell metabolism (induction of nutrient flux, glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation), mitochondrial activity (directionality of the electron transport chain (ETC), impact on TCA cycle and ROS production) and gene transcription. Thus, CIRS has created a novel research area and propose that understanding the unexpected functions of the complosome will deliver critical new knowledge about cell biology in health and disease.

The central goal of Dr. Kemper's research programme is therefore to define the functional roles and regulative mechanisms of intracellular/autocrine complement and assess their biological relevance with an eye on delivering druggable targets in these pathways to therapeutically intervene in diseases (recently, the lab has broadened its interest heavily towards the role of the complosome in meningeal immunity and neurodegenerative disorders (such as MS)). To achieve this overarching goal, Dr. Kemper's lab are currently focusing on three key questions:

  1. What is the composition of the Complosome in different cells?
  2. What are the functions of the Complosome?
  3. How is the Complosome regulated?

They utilize immune/tissue cells from healthy donors, from patients with complement deficiencies, from patients with immune cell-driven infectious, autoimmune disease or cancer and from patients with deviations in novel ‘complosome’-regulated pathways for gene and scRNA arrays, epigenetic landscape evaluation, and (spatial) proteomic and metabolomic assessments. This unbiased approach driven by human genetics and robust experimental in vitro systems will be combined with appropriate small animal (mouse) in vivo models to define biological significance of proteins/pathways discovered and to develop preclinical animal models for future pharmacological targeting. To achieve the latter, the Kemper lab is collaborating via a CRADA with Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.


Dr. Kemper is a Senior Investigator and Section Chief at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr. Kemper received her Ph.D. in 1998 from the Bernhard-Nocht-Institute for Tropical Medicine, in Germany, and joined John Atkinson’s laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University (Saint Louis) in 1999. Here, she discovered that the complement regulator CD46 is a key checkpoint in human Th1 induction. Dr. Kemper moved to King’s College London in 2008, where her group discovered the intracellularly active complement (the complosome) which serves non-canonical roles in cell biology, including the regulation of key metabolic pathways, mitochondrial dynamics, and gene transcription. Her group further showed that complosome perturbations are associated with a range of human diseases, including primary immune deficiency, and arthritic and cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Kemper is the recipient of a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award, the Merit Award for Excellence in Science from the International Complement Society, two Orloff Awards in Science from the NHLBI/NIH. She is an elected member of the Henry Kunkel Society, serves on the Scientific Board of Apellis, Inc., is the current NHLBI representative of the Women Scientists Advisors (WSA), a current member of the American Association of Immunologists (AA) Committee on the Status of Women, the Head of Admission of the NIH-OXCAM Scholars Program, and the sitting President of the International Complement Society.

Selected Publications

  1. Kolev M, West EE, Kunz N, Chauss D, Moseman EA, Rahman J, Freiwald T, Balmer ML, Lötscher J, Dimeloe S, Rosser EC, Wedderburn LR, Mayer-Barber KD, Bohrer A, Lavender P, Cope A, Wang L, Kaplan MJ, Moutsopoulos NM, McGavern D, Holland SM, Hess C, Kazemian M, Afzali B, Kemper C. Diapedesis-Induced Integrin Signaling via LFA-1 Facilitates Tissue Immunity by Inducing Intrinsic Complement C3 Expression in Immune Cells. Immunity. 2020;52(3):513-527.e8.
  2. Arbore G, West EE, Spolski R, Robertson AAB, Klos A, Rheinheimer C, Dutow P, Woodruff TM, Yu ZX, O'Neill LA, Coll RC, Sher A, Leonard WJ, Köhl J, Monk P, Cooper MA, Arno M, Afzali B, Lachmann HJ, Cope AP, Mayer-Barber KD, Kemper C. T helper 1 immunity requires complement-driven NLRP3 inflammasome activity in CD4⁺ T cells. Science. 2016;352(6292):aad1210.
  3. West EE, Merle NS, Kamiński MM, Palacios G, Kumar D, Wang L, Bibby JA, Overdahl K, Jarmusch AK, Freeley S, Lee DY, Thompson JW, Yu ZX, Taylor N, Sitbon M, Green DR, Bohrer A, Mayer-Barber KD, Afzali B, Kazemian M, Scholl-Buergi S, Karall D, Huemer M, Kemper C. Loss of CD4(+) T cell-intrinsic arginase 1 accelerates Th1 response kinetics and reduces lung pathology during influenza infection. Immunity. 2023.
  4. West EE, Kolev M, Kemper C. Complement and the Regulation of T Cell Responses. Annu Rev Immunol. 2018;36:309-338.
  5. Yan B, Freiwald T, Chauss D, Wang L, West E, Mirabelli C, Zhang CJ, Nichols EM, Malik N, Gregory R, Bantscheff M, Ghidelli-Disse S, Kolev M, Frum T, Spence JR, Sexton JZ, Alysandratos KD, Kotton DN, Pittaluga S, Bibby J, Niyonzima N, Olson MR, Kordasti S, Portilla D, Wobus CE, Laurence A, Lionakis MS, Kemper C, Afzali B, Kazemian M. SARS-CoV-2 drives JAK1/2-dependent local complement hyperactivation. Sci Immunol. 2021;6(58).

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, April 23, 2024