The immune system responds to viral infections by introducing a complex interplay of immune cells and factors, whose goal is to eliminate the intruding pathogen. One such effector cell in the antiviral response is the Natural Killer (NK) cell, which secretes inflammatory cytokines and directly kills infected cells. The focus of our research is aimed at defining the signals that NK cells require to mount an effective immune response against pathogens. We are also exploring the regulatory mechanisms keeping NK cells in check, thereby safeguarding against potential autoimmunity.


Karo JM, Schatz DG, Sun JC.  2014.  The RAG recombinase dictates functional heterogeneity and cellular fitness in natural killer cells.  Cell.  159:94-107.

Geiger TL, Abt MC, Gasteiger G, Firth MA, O’Connor MH, Geary C, O’Sullivan T, van den Brink MR, Pamer EG, Hanash AM, Sun JC.  2014.  Nfil3 is crucial for development of innate lymphoid cells and host protection against intestinal pathogens.  J Exp Med. 211:1723-1731.

Beaulieu AM, Zawislak CL, Nakayama T, Sun JC.  2014.  The transcription factor Zbtb32 controls the proliferative burst of virus- specific NK cells responding to infection. Nat Immunol.  15:546-53.

Firth MA, Madera S, Beaulieu AM, Gasteiger G, Castillo EF, Schluns KS, Kubo M, Rothman PB, Vivier E, Sun JC.  2013.  Nfil3-independent lineage maintenance and anti-viral response of natural killer cells.  J Exp Med.  210:2981-90.

Zawislak CL, Beaulieu AM, Loeb GB, Karo J, Canner D, Bezman NA, Lanier LL, Rudensky AY, Sun JC.  2013.  Stage-specific regulation of Natural Killer cell homeostasis and response against viral infection by microRNA-155.  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.  110:6967-72.

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Selected Achievements

Geoffrey Beene Junior Faculty Chair (2014)

AAI Pfizer-Showell Early Career Investigator Award (2012)

Searle Scholar Award (2011)

Cancer Research Institute Investigator Award (2011)

NIH K99 Career Development Award (2010)

Pictured: Joseph Sun

At Work: Immunologist Joseph Sun

Immunologist Joseph Sun is an investigator in the Sloan Kettering Institute’s Immunology Program. Dr. Sun’s research is focused on natural killer cells, a part of what is called the innate immune system.