Hao Wu

Harvard University


Primary Section: 43, Immunology and Inflammation
Secondary Section: 29, Biophysics and Computational Biology
Membership Type: Member (elected 2015)

Biosketch

Hao Wu is a structural immunologist recognized for her work in signal transduction of the immune system. In particular, she is known for revising fundamentally how we view the molecular mechanism of innate immune signaling by discovering the formation of large oligomeric signalosomes in these pathways. Wu was born in Beijing, China, in 1964 and received her pre-medical training at Peking University from 1982 to 1985. She studied Medicine at Peking Union Medical College from 1985 to 1988.  She obtained her PhD degree in Biochemistry from Purdue University in 1992. After performing postdoctoral research at Columbia University, she joined the faculty at Weill Cornell Medical College in 1997 and was promoted to Professor in 2003. In 2012, she moved to Harvard Medical School as Asa and Patricia Springer Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, and Senior Investigator in the Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Wu has received a number of honors, including the Pew Scholar award, the Rita Allen Scholar award, New York Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Science and Technology, the Margaret Dayhoff Memorial Award from the Biophysical Society, and the NIH Pioneer Award.

Research Interests

Hao Wu’s laboratory of structural immunology focuses on elucidating the molecular mechanism of signal transduction by immune receptors, especially innate immune receptors. The overall objective is to determine how macromolecular interactions mediate the transmission of signals from receptors to effectors to direct innate immune responses, using the core approaches of structural biology including crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy. These structural studies have led to the discovery of large oligomeric intracellular signaling complexes or "signalosomes" such as helical assemblies and amyloid scaffolds. By promoting proximity-driven allosteric activation of caspases, kinases and ubiquitin ligases, these signalosomes induce cell death, cytokine maturation and expression of gene products for immune and inflammatory responses. Formation of signalosomes challenges the traditional view of signal transduction as a string of one-on-one recruitment and catalytic events, and provides a molecular foundation for understanding the microscopically visible signaling clusters in cells. Wu's discoveries establish the importance of oligomeric, cooperatively assembled complexes in signal amplification and threshold behavior for immune receptor signaling and by extension, for intracellular signaling more generally.

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