Jenny Ting studies innate immune sensors and receptors and their roles in infection, cancer and inflammation. Her group first described the human NLR gene family to include a few known and sixteen new genes. She has studied the divergent roles of this family and has uncovered their roles in transcriptional activation, cytokine processing, cell death and autophagy. Her group was among the first to show the unexpected finding that NLRP3, ASC and caspase 1/11 protected against colitis and colitis-associated colon cancer. She also showed that these same players can activate an inflammatory response to a high fat diet, specifically in response to saturated fatty acid. A number of NLRs referred to as “inhibitory NLRs”, serve as negative regulators of cell signaling pathways such as NFkB, MAPK and STAT. Interestingly these proteins play an anti-inflammatory role by keeping in check a signaling threshold, thus preventing inflammatory diseases. With translational and clinical relevance in mind, her group has published several papers indicating that while expression of the inflammasome NLRs is enhanced in inflammatory conditions, the expression of inhibitory NLRs (iNLR’s) is decreased, which is consistent with their negative regulatory functions. Recently they have linked iNLRs and the maintenance of a protective microbiome, and have shown that specific bacteria can mediate anti-inflammatory functions.
Relevance of Research to CGIBD Mission: Dr. Ting’s lab has conducted important research on the NLR gene family. Members of this family protect against colitis and colitis associated colon cancer. She is an active collaborator with a number of CGIBD members.
CGIBD Focus Area(s): Microbiome
Collaborators: Allbritton, Herfarth, Lemon, Miao, Sartor