The primary focus of the work in my lab centers on mucosal diseases in the airways. Mucosal surfaces, such as the airways, are under constant attack by bacterial and viral pathogens. The first line of protection against these pathogens is mediated by a “nonspecific” immune response, termed innate immunity. Innate immunity response is an inflammatory response by the recognition of molecular patterns indicating the presence of replicating organisms. These molecular patterns are recognized by pattern recognition receptors on the surface of epithelial cells and others. Once triggered, pattern recognition receptors produce the expression of inflammatory and anti-viral genes by the epithelium. These proteins result in shaping the adaptive immune response important in specific immunity.
Our studies have demonstrated the central role of a transcription factor, termed NFB, and the mechanism how it activates inflammatory gene expression. Our work shows that NFB activates a rapid, regulated gene expression mechanism termed “transcriptional elongation” to mediate innate response. Not only does this pathway provide acute response to new viral infections, our studies have shown that the NFB pathway controls cellular reprogramming, cell-state transition and remodeling/fibrosis.