Our research interests are host-microbiome interactions in health and disease. Our research is supported by the NIH, DOD, and a few other research awards. Using cultured cell lines, organoids, transgenic mouse models, and human samples, Sun lab is currently working on the following directions:
Investigation of gut microbiome and vitamin D receptor in intestinal homeostasis and inflammation.
Our studies provide novel insights into vitamin D receptor regulation of gut microbiome (Wu, et al, Gut, 2015; Wang, et al, Nature Genetics, 2016). We generated a mouse model with intestinal VDR conditional knockout. We reported that ATG16L1, Axin1, and Claudin-2 as novel VDR target genes.
Identification and elucidation of the Salmonella effector protein AvrA in host-bacterial interactions.
Our studies have demonstrated the Salmonella regulation of the intestinal Wnt/β-catenin pathway through bacterial effector protein AvrA in acute and chronic infection models. We reported the first Salmonella-infected colon cancer model. Our lab has developed the first model using intestinal-stem derived organoids to study host-bacterial interactions (Zhang, et al., Physiological Reports 2014).
Characterization of intestinal stem cells in inflammation, infection and cancer.
We reported Salmonella regulation of intestinal stem cells (Liu, et al., FEBS letter, 2010). This finding also led to our award by the New York State’s Empire State Stem Cell Board to study the enteric bacteria and stem cells in inflammation and cancer. Our featured paper reports a novel humanized mouse model to study the tumor progress and intestinal permeability in HIV infection.
Identify novel roles of intestinal barriers and gut microbiome in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
We are pioneers in exploring microbiome and tissue barriers in human ALS and animal models (Wu, et al., Physiological Reports. 2015; Rowin, et al., Physiological Reports. 2017). Our study has provided novel insights into microbiome in ALS progression and therapy (Zhang, Clinical Therapeutics, et al., 2017).