Douglas Green PhD

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Dr. Green is an internationally recognized leader in the field of apoptosis. He has been Chair of the Department of Immunology at SJCRH since 2005.

Doug Green is best known for his work on the mechanisms of apoptotic cell death, work that originated with his interest in the regulation of the immune system. His interest in science began early, as both of his parents are ardent outdoor enthusiasts and naturalists. His sister is an internationally known penguin biologist who is currently on her base on King George’s Island in the Antarctic (which she has visited yearly for more than 25 years, and earlier this year to film a “60 Minutes” segment). But Doug turned to laboratory research early on, preferring more urban environments where martinis are more readily available (and his wife hates camping). Despite this, Doug originally went to Yale University as an undergraduate in theater, and only returned to science when he found that theater was an even more risky pursuit than biology (and because he placed out of Biology 101). Following his undergraduate training, he went briefly to graduate school at MIT, and moved back to Yale as the first graduate student in their (at that time) new program in Immunology. There he trained with Richard Gershon, the discoverer of suppressor T cells, and he worked on aspects of immune regulation. (A brief and ill-advised return to theater occurred at this time, when he auditioned as a writer for “Saturday Night Live” — we shudder to think of his future and the ensuing rehab if he had succeeded). Shortly after receiving his degree, his mentor succumbed to lung cancer, and he was placed in charge of the laboratory while pursuing his own work on trauma, immune regulation, and sepsis as a post-doc at Yale. He then spent a year studying invertebrate marine zoology and evolutionary biology with Leo Buss, during which time he learned scuba diving and molecular biology (but not at the same time).

In 1985 he received his first faculty appointment in the Department of Immunology at the University of Edmonton, in Alberta, Canada, where he was an Alberta Heritage Foundation Scholar. He became interested in negative selection as the primary mechanism of immune tolerance, and in studying what happened to developing thymocytes discovered the process of “activation-induced cell death” or AICD. Characterizing AICD with his graduate student, Yufang Shi, they found that this occurred by apoptosis, which was then a little known or studied phenomenon. They found that AICD was dependent on the c-Myc oncogene, which paradoxically induces both proliferation and apoptosis.

In 1990, he moved to the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology in Southern California. Here he focused his efforts on the study of apoptosis, and found that the synergy between Myc and Bcl-2 was due to the latter’s ability to block apoptotic cell death. Over the following years, he and his laboratory identified the induction of the death ligand, FasL, and its interaction with its receptor, Fas, as the mechanism of AICD. Subsequently, and together with his close collaborator, Don Newmeyer, they identified the mechanism of action of Bcl-2 and the role of the mitochondria in apoptosis, helping to define the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis.

In 2005, he moved to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where he is chairman of the Department of Immunology and holds the Peter C. Doherty Endowed Chair. His current work focuses on aspects of Bcl-2 family function, the role of mitochondria in cell death, the metabolic control of immune function, necrosis in development, and the interface between autophagy and innate immunity.

Doug Green has published over 400 papers, book chapters, and books, and continues to be deeply involved in analysis of the central mechanisms of cell death and cell survival. He is the author of “Means to an End, Apoptosis and other Cell Death Mechanisms,” published by Cold Spring Harbor Press. He is an ISI “highly cited” scientist, and is among the 50 most cited scientists in the world. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Oncogene. He serves on a number of editorial boards for journals, including Cell, Molecular Cell and Cancer Cell, and Cell Death and Differentiation, among others. Many of his trainees hold faculty positions around the world. He considers his current laboratory among the finest scientists he has ever known. He is thrilled to be on the faculty of St. Jude, an amazing institution at the cutting edge of cancer and biomedical research. And Memphis is, as he says, “full of nice surprises.”