Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Wenqi (Ellen) Zuo L&S Biological Sciences

Regulation of Nucleic Acid Sensing Toll-like Receptors by UNC93B1

The innate immune responses are the first line of defense against invading pathogens. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play crucial roles in the innate immune system by recognizing pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) derived from pathogens. A subset of endosomally restricted TLRs senses nucleic acids (NA), thus equipping immune cells with broad recognition of pathogens while also posing the risk of self-detection. Inappropriate activation of NA-sensing TLRs has been shown to drive pathological inflammation and autoimmune disease in various mouse studies and human patients. Several studies identify the trafficking chaperone Unc93b1 as a vital regulatory node in the activation of NA-sensing TLRs. While Unc93b1 is essential for all NA-sensing TLR responses, the Barton lab and others have further demonstrated that Unc93b1 additionally is necessary for silencing certain NA-sensing TLR responses. My project aims to identify Unc93b1-interacting molecules and probe TLR signaling regulation through functional genetics and proximity labeling, which will contribute to the development of potential treatments for autoinflammatory diseases. 

Message To Sponsor

I am incredibly grateful to my generous donors who made this project possible. Their support has allowed me to design and conduct fascinating experiments, delving into the complex world of innate immunity and related pathologies. As a future doctor, this experience has provided me with a valuable opportunity to contribute to the study of autoimmune diseases and utilize the findings for potential therapeutic benefits. With the support of my donors, I am committed to working tirelessly to achieve my dreams and make a meaningful impact in the field of medicine.
Major: MCB-Immunology, NST-Toxicology
Mentor: Gregory Barton
Sponsor: Various Donors
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