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The broad impact of NLRs on immunity and beyond

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Jenny P-Y Ting, Ph.D.
William Rand Kenan Professor of Microbiology and Immunology
Co-Director, Inflammatory Disease Institute
Director, Center for Translational Immunology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dr. Ting’s laboratory is a molecular biology and immunology lab that studies innate immune sensors and receptors and their roles in inflammatory and infectious diseases. She is a pioneer in the understanding of the NLR family of proteins. Her group was the first to describe the entire NLR gene family and study their roles in both their conventional inflammasome function as well as non-inflammasome functions. More recently, her lab has uncovered the roles of NLR genes in inflammatory disorders such as asthma and has performed several microarray profiling experiments on samples from asthma patients.


The innate immune system is governed by a variety of receptors or sensors that detect microbial pathogens and activate specific signaling pathways. More important, these receptors/sensors also have a great impact on the basic biologic processes that affect cancer, metabolic disorders, inflammation, neurologic disorders, and other diseases. The Ting group first reported on the large human NLR gene family, which comprises regulators of innate immunity and exhibits important regulatory roles in immunity and beyond. These genes provide instructions for making proteins called nucleotide-binding domain and leucine-rich repeat containing (NLR) proteins, which are involved in starting and regulating the immune system’s response to injury, toxins, or invasion by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The NLR family also affects a number of processes that are involved in sterile inflammation and adaptive immunity. Many of the NLR proteins control immunity by regulating cytokine production (such as the inflammasome products IL-1beta/IL-18 and interferons), while some directly control gene expression (such as the class I and II major histocompatibility genes). Members also regulate diverse cell-death responses such as apoptosis, necrosis, and autophagy, and diverse signaling pathways including NFkB and MAPKs. Dr. Ting will present evidence for the broad biologic and clinical impact of the NLR family and describe findings regarding novel NLRs.

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