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School of Medicine Departments

Thomas E. "Tem" Morrison, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Microbiology

   Phone: (303) 724-4283

Thomas E. "Tem" Morrison, Ph.D., earned his doctoral degree in 2004 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Microbiology and Immunology.  He completed 5 years of postdoctoral research training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Genetics and Carolina Vaccine Institute, in the laboratory of Mark T. Heise, Ph.D.

Dr. Morrison joined the faculty of the University of Colorado School of Medicine Department of Microbiology in 2009.


The major interest of the laboratory is the molecular pathogenesis of viral infection, with an emphasis on mosquito-transmitted viruses. Mosquito-transmitted viruses include flaviviruses, such as Dengue virus and West Nile virus, bunyaviruses, such as Rift Valley fever virus, and alphaviruses, such as chikungunya virus and Ross River virus. Chikungunya virus and Ross River virus cause debilitating, and often chronic, musculoskeletal disease in humans characterized by severe joint pain and inflammation, tenosynovitis, and myositis.  These viruses are capable of initiating explosive epidemics that can involve thousands to millions of infected patients and are an emerging disease threat.

My research utilizes mouse models based on chikungunya virus or Ross River virus infection to investigate host and viral factors that contribute to immunopathologic inflammation and disease. These mouse models enable us to utilize transgenic and knockout strains to study the role of specific host genes in the disease process and investigate the genetics of host susceptibility to infection. Additionally, due to the well-established alphavirus reverse genetics system, we are able to easily manipulate the genome of the virus. Taken together, these advantages provide a highly tractable system to establish mechanisms by which viral interactions with the host lead to disease.  In addition, these models can be utilized to test immunomodulatory therapeutics and novel vaccine approaches to treat or prevent these virus-induced inflammatory diseases.

Current projects  

1) Understanding the virus-host interactions that initiate severe inflammatory responses in musculoskeletal tissues

2) Defining macrophage effector mechanisms that mediate protection and/or pathology following RRV/CHIKV infection

3) Molecular mechanisms of chronic joint inflammation and disease associated with CHIKV infection

Current Lab Members

Lauren Oko, Professional Research Associate

Kristina A. Stoermer, 3rd year student, Graduate Program in Immunology

Henri J. Jupille, 3rd year student, Graduate Program in Microbiology

Dr. Morrison was the recipient of a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the NIH/NIAMS during his postdoctoral training at the Univerity of North Carolina at Chapel.  Currently, Dr. Morrison is the recepient of a NIH/NIAID Research Scholar Development Award (K22) and is a 2010-2011 Arthritis National Research Foundation Scholar.