Laura F Su, M.D. Ph.D.

faculty photo
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Department: Medicine
Graduate Group Affiliations

Contact information
421 Curie Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA
BS (Biology)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 1996.
New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, 2003.
New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, 2003.
Permanent link
> Perelman School of Medicine   > Faculty   > Details

Description of Research Expertise

Description of Research Expertise

Research Interests:
The overarching goal of the Su lab is to define mechanisms of T cell pathology in human diseased states. We are particularly interested in T cell engagement with microbial antigens during homeostatic condition as a mechanism for programming inflammatory or tolerigenic T cell responses in infectious and autoimmune diseases.

CD4+ T cells, memory, cross-reactivity, peptide-MHC tetramers, TCR repertoire, vaccination, autoimmunity, rheumatoid arthritis.

Research summary:
Direct study of humans is valuable and necessary to fully understand health and disease. We still do not understand why some vaccines are more effective than others, why people respond differently, and how the living environment impacts the risk for developing autoimmunity or response to infections. The Su lab is interested in the fundamental question of what intrinsic factors and external influences modulate immune response. Uncovering and understanding these factors and interactions will lead to better ways to prevent disease and to abrogate pathologic responses.

The lab focuses on:
1) Autoimmunity: Autoimmune diseases strike over 20 million Americans and are becoming increasingly more common. We are interested in T cell and B cell pathologies in rheumatoid arthritis and type I diabetes. Our ultimate goal is to develop approaches that can reshape the autoimmune repertoire to re-establish immune tolerance.

2) Chronic infection: HIV infection is one of the world’s most serious public health challenges. Viral infection leads to disrupted lymphoid architectures and altered cellular differentiation, as well as an overall increase in T cell activation. Using mass cytometry to study T cell and B cell interaction in primary HIV infected lymph nodes, we reported on oligoclonal expansion of functionally-restricted follicular helper T cells in chronically inflamed lymph nodes. We further identified a related CD4+ T cell subset as an atypical B cell helper population that migrates between the lymph node and peripheral compartments. We seek to further define T cell signals that drive pathologic B cell responses in the lymph node and inflamed tissue environments.

3) TCR cross-reactivity: The broader microbial environment has a profound impact on the immune system and host resistance to pathogens. Recent studies comparing mice raised under different conditions have demonstrated an enhanced ability of free-living mice to clear infections. However, this aspect of host-microbial interaction is not well understood. To what extent does continuous “tickle” from microbial environment impact host immunity? We seek to uncover how pre-existing memory impact the potency and durability of CD4+ T cell immunity. We have an ongoing NIH funded study to define antigen-specific response of pre-existing memory cells in humans immunized with the yellow fever vaccine. We are also interested in using defined microbial exposures in mice to understand the initiating events that govern T cell activation and differentiation in response to cross-reactive antigens.

Students with interest in human immunology or microbial-host interactions are encouraged to contact us for potential rotation projects!

Selected Publications

Katherine J. Wu: Your Vaccinated Immune System Is Ready for Breakthroughs. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/07/anatomy-of-a-vaccine-breakthrough/619562/ July 2021.

Yi-Gen Pan, Benjamas Aiamkitsumrit, Laurent Bartolo, Yifeng Wang, Criswell Lavery, Adam Marc, Patrick V. Holec, C. Garrett Rappazzo, Theresa Eilola, Phyllis A. Gimotty, Scott Hensley, Rustom Antia, Veronika I. Zarnitsyna, Michael E. Birnbaum, Laura F. Su: Vaccination reshapes the virus-specific T cell repertoire in unexposed adults Immunity 54(6): 1245-1256.E5, June 2021.

Katherine J. Wu: The Body Is Far From Helpless Against Coronavirus Variants. The Atlantic February 2021 Notes: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/02/antibody-evolution/618004/

Katherine J. Wu: The Coronavirus Is New, but Your Immune System Might Still Recognize It. The New York Times August 2020 Notes: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/06/health/coronavirus-immune-cells.html.

Subrahmanyam PB, Holmes TH, Lin D, Su LF, Obermoser G, Banchereau J, Pascual V, Garcia-Sastre A, Albrecht RA, Palucka K, Davis MM, Maecker HT: Mass Cytometry Defines Virus-Specific CD4+ T Cells in Influenza Vaccination. Immunohorizons. December (eds.). 4(12), 774-88 2020.

Del Alcazar D, Wang Y, He C, Wendel BS, Del Rio-Estrada PM, Lin J, Ablanedo-Terrazas Y, Malone MJ, Hernandez SM, Frank I, Naji A, Reyes-Teran G, Jiang N, Su LF.: Mapping the lineage relationship between CXCR5+ and CXCR5- CD4+ T cells in HIV infected human lymph nodes. Cell Reports September 2019.

Sibener LV, Fernandes RA, Kolawole EM, Carbone CB, Liu F, McAffee D, Birnbaum ME, Yang X2 Su LF, Yu W, Dong S, Gee MH, Jude KM, Davis MM, Groves JT, Goddard WA 3rd, Heath JR, Evavold BD, Vale RD, Garcia KC: Isolation of a Structural Mechanism for Uncoupling T Cell Receptor Signaling from Peptide-MHC Binding. Cell 174(3): 672-687, July 2018.

ggert M, Nguyen S, Salgado-Montes de Oca G, Bengsch B, Darko S, Ransier A, Roberts ER, Del Alcazar D, Brody IB, Vella LA, Beura L, Wijeyesinghe S, Herati RS, Del Rio Estrada PM, Ablanedo-Terrazas Y, Kuri-Cervantes L, Sada Japp A, Manne S, Vartanian S, Huffman A, Sandberg JK, Gostick E, Nadolski G, Silvestri G, Canaday DH, Price DA, Petrovas C, Su LF, Vahedi G, Dori Y, Frank I, Itkin MG, Wherry EJ, Deeks SG, Naji A, Reyes-Terán G, Masopust D, Douek DC, Betts MR: Identification and characterization of HIV-specific resident memory CD8+ T cells in human lymphoid tissue. Science Immunology 3(24), June 2018.

Ben S. Wendel, Daniel Del Alcazar, Chenfeng He, Perla M. Del Río-Estrada , Benjamas Aiamkitsumrit, Yuria Ablanedo-Terrazas, Stefany M. Hernandez, Ke-Yue Ma, Michael Betts, Laura Pulido, Jun Huang, Phyllis A. Gimotty, Gustavo Reyes-Terán, Ning Jiang, Laura F. Su: The receptor repertoire and functional profile of follicular T cells in HIV-infected lymph nodes. Science Immunology 3(22): eaan8884, April 2018.

Herati RH, Muselman A, Vella L, Bengsch B, Kotzin J, Del Alcazar D, Parkhouse K, Tebas P, Doyle SA, Hensley S, Su LF, Schmader KE, Wherry J: Successive annual influenza vaccination induces a recurrent oligoclonotypic memory response in circulating T follicular helper cells. Science Immunology 2(3): eaag2152, February 2017.

back to top
Last updated: 09/06/2021
The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania