Student Profile in Innate Immunity & STING Biology

Xintao Tu

Immunology Graduate Program

Mentor: Nan Yan, Ph.D.
Undergraduate Degree: Biological Sciences
Undergraduate Institution: Zhejiang University
Hometown: Nanchang, China

Awards/Fellowships: Undergraduate: National Scholarship, Ministry of Education of China First-Class Scholarship for Outstanding Students, Zhejiang University

Xintao Tu

How did you become interested in science and/or research?

My interest in science began in high school. I was fascinated by the complexity of our human body during biology class. During my second year at Zhejiang University, I participated in the Student Research Training Program (SRTP) and was exposed to the science part behind the papers. I worked with Drs. Qingqing Wand and Yang Liu whose passion for science motivated me to pursue a Ph.D. degree.

Please describe your research.

Immunofluorescence confocal imaging of fibroblasts with endoplasmic reticulum in yellow and cytoskeleton in cyan
Immunofluorescence confocal imaging of fibroblasts with endoplasmic reticulum in yellow and cytoskeleton in cyan.

I study the molecular mechanisms of the innate immune system which is important for pathogen recognition as well as cancer immunotherapy. Mutations in these pathways often lead to autoimmune diseases or inflammatory diseases. Specifically, I focus on this key endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-anchored adaptor protein named STING. STING is essential to produce Type I interferon in the DNA sensing pathway. Activation of STING triggers its trafficking from the ER, through ERGIC/Golgi, to vesicles, during which time STING activates and quickly terminates downstream interferon signaling. By understanding more details of STING biology through my work, we will gain invaluable insights into the molecular mechanisms of the innate immune system.

Why did you choose UT Southwestern?

UT Southwestern is a state-of-the-art research institute with pioneer scientists in different research areas. We are privileged to have a wide spectrum of cutting-edge research labs, full-equipped core facilities, and the key factor is an open and collaborative environment. All these factors will help students to become successful scientists in the future.

What do you think makes the Immunology Program one of the best?

The Immunology Program here at UT Southwestern is composed of a variety of expert scientists in the field of innate immunity, mucosal immunity, host-microbe interactions, adaptive immunity, and more. The collaborative environment of the program ensures that we can always turn to other experienced scientists for help and advice. The program is also a good mix of both senior and junior faculties. The mentors here provide students with excellent scientific training.

– Xintao TuImmunology Graduate Program

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