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

Using Arabidopsis thaliana as a model system, Dong studies the immune mechanisms of plants against microbial pathogens. Her major focus has been on an inducible immune response known as systemic acquired resistance (SAR). SAR, once triggered by a local infection, can provide the rest of the plant with long lasting resistance against a broad spectrum of pathogens. Salicylic acid (SA; an active ingredient of aspirin) is a required plant signal for SAR. Using molecular genetic approaches, Dong's lab has been identifying and characterizing genes involved in the reception of the SA signal and the regulation and execution of disease resistance. One of the SAR regulators, NPR1, has been shown to be a good target for engineering disease-resistance in multiple crops. Recently, Dong has become interested in studying the regulation of plant defense by the circadian clock and the involvement of the DNA damage repair machinery in plant defense and in understanding the biological implications of these interactions.

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Primary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology