James T. Stivers, Ph.D.

Headshot of James T. Stivers
  • Professor of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences

Research Interests

DNA repair mechanisms; small molecule inhibitors of DNA repair enzymes; dNTP pool regulation and mutagenesis ...read more


Dr. James Stivers is a professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences and oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His research focuses on the DNA damage recognition and the multifacted functions of uracil in DNA metabolism.

His team is currently studying the role of dUTP and dNTP pool levels in cancer therapy and innate immunity against viruses and how enzymes find rare damaged bases in DNA.

Dr. Stivers received his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington. He earned his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.

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  • Professor of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences
  • Professor of Oncology

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes



  • Ph.D.; Johns Hopkins University (Maryland) (1992)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Stiver's laboratory is broadly interested in the biology of the RNA base uracil when it is present in DNA. Our work involves structural and biophysical studies of uracil recognition by DNA repair enzymes, the central role of uracil in adapative and innate immunity, and the function of uracil in antifolate and fluoropyrimidine chemotherapy. Accordingly, we use a wide breadth of structural, chemical, genetic and biophysical approaches that provide a fundamental understanding of molecular function. Our long-range goal is to use this understanding to design novel small molecules that alter biological pathways within a cellular environment. One approach we are developing is the high-throughput synthesis and screening of small molecule libraries directed at important targets in cancer and HIV-1 pathogenesis.


My laboratory is currently focusing on the following research areas:

  • We are interested in how the simple nucleotide dUTP plays a role in the action of several antimetabolite drugs and how dUTP pool levels are used as an innate immune defense against viruses. We investigate the mechanisms for both of these uracil-centric problems using advanced biophysical and cell biology approaches. Our goal is to uncover new targets for antiviral and anticancer therapeutic development.
  • The immune system uses both adaptive (antibody) and innate mechanisms to fight viral infections such as HIV-1. A newly discovered innate immune defense to HIV-1 is the dNTP triphosphohydrolase enzyme SAMHD1. We are elucidating the enzymatic properties of this enzyme using the tools of structural biology, enzymology, synthetic chemistry, and cell biology. We ultimately seek to understand how SAMHD1 is involved in HIV-1 infectivity of immune cells.
  • Over the last decade fragment-based drug discovery has become a well-established approach for identifying lead compounds with pharmacologic activity. We have been exploring a substrate fragment-based approach for enzyme inhibitor design against several enzymes involved in uracil DNA base excision repair, which is an important pathway in viral pathogenesis, cancer chemotherapy and the development of lymphoid cancers.

Lab Website: Stivers laboratory

Selected Publications

View all on PubMed

Christenson, E., Gizzi, A., Cui, J., Egleston, M., Seamon, K., Orris, B., DePasquale, M., Park, B. and Stivers, J.T. (2021) Inhibition of hUNG2 Sensitizes a Large Fraction of Colorectal Cancer Cells to 5-fluorodeoxyuridine (FdU) and Raltitrexed (RTX) but not Fluorouracil (FU) Mol Pharmacol 99 412–425

Meshesha, M., Esadze, A., Cui, J., Churgulia, N., Sahu, S.K. and Stivers, J.T. (2020) Deficient Uracil Base Excision Repair Leads to dUMP Persistence in HIV Proviruses During Infection of Monocytes and Macrophages PlosOne 15 e0235012. PMCID: PMC7360050

Hansen, E.C., Ransom, M., Hesselberth, J.R. Hosmane, N.N., Zhang, H., Capoferri, A.A., Drummond, M.B., Siliciano, J.M., Siliciano, R.F. and Stivers, J.T. (2016) Diverse fates of uracilated HIV DNA during infection of myeloid lineage cells. eLIFE 5, e18447. PMCID: PMC5030084

Hansen, E.C., Seamon, K.J., Cravens, S.L., Stivers, J.T. (2014) GTP Activator and dNTP Substrates of HIV-1 Restriction Factor SAMHD1 Generate a Long-lived Activated State, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 111, E1843-51. PMCID: PMC4020072

Weil, A. F., Ghosh, D, Zhoub, Y., Seiple, L., McMahon, M. A., Spivak, A. M., Siliciano, R. F. and Stivers, J.T. (2013) Uracil DNA Glycosylase Initiates Degradation of HIV-1 cDNA Containing Misincorporated dUTP and Prevents Viral Integration. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 110, E448-57. PMCID: PMC3568341

Contact for Research Inquiries

James Stivers
725 N. Wolfe Street
Wood Basic Science Building
Baltimore, MD 21205 map
Phone: 410-502-2758
Fax: 410-955-3023

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