Xinnian Dong

Duke University

Primary Section: 62, Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences
Secondary Section: 25, Plant Biology
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2012)


Xinnian Dong is the Distinguished Arts & Sciences Professor of Biology in the Department of Biology at Duke University. She is a plant molecular biologist recognized for her pioneering work in understanding the plant immune mechanisms. She is known particularly for her studies of an inducible plant immune response known as systemic acquired resistance (SAR). Her lab identified the signaling pathway involved in the perception and the transduction of the SAR signal, salicylic acid, more recently, discovered surprising connections between plant defense with the circadian clock and with the DNA repair machinery. Dong was born in Wuhan, China in 1959 and grew up in Beijing. After received her B.S. degree in microbiology from Wuhan University in 1982, Dong came to the US as a graduate student and received her Ph.D. degree in molecular biology from Northwestern University in 1988. She became interested in using Arabidopsis thaliana as a model organism to study plant immune mechanisms when she was a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dong joined the faculty at Duke University in 1992. She became a naturalized US citizen in 1998. She is currently an HHMI-GMBF investigator and was elected an AAAS fellow in 2011.

Research Interests

Dr. Dong’s research aims to understand how plants, in the absence of specialized immune cells, defend against pathogen infection both locally and systemically without compromising other physiological activities. The studies involve identification of key immune regulatory components and elucidating the signal transduction network at the transcriptional, translation, cellular and organismal levels. With the advancement of new genomic and proteomic technologies, Dr. Dong’s lab has been exploring the role of the circadian clock and the cellular redox rhythm in regulation of plant defense in coordination with other stress responses, such as DNA damage response, and environmental factors, such as humidity. With the new knowledge gained through basic research, the lab is developing new ways of controlling the expression of defense regulators in crop plants to minimize yield penalties associated with enhanced broad-spectrum immunity against pathogens to make disease management in agriculture more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

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