Dax Fu, Ph.D.

Headshot of Dax Fu
  • Associate Professor of Physiology

Research Interests

Zinc physiology with a focus on structure, function and regulation of zinc transporters ...read more


Dr. Dax Fu is an associate professor of physiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His research focuses on zinc transporters from molecular structures to pathophysiologic roles in mammalian cells. 

His lab is translating basic research in structure and function of a human pancreatic zinc transporter to early diagnosis and therapeutic interventions of diabetes.

Dr. Fu received his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from the Shanghai Medical College of Fudan University in China and earned a Ph.D. in physiology and biophysics from Mayo Medical School. He conducted post-doctoral work in membrane biochemistry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and X-ray crystallography at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine.

Dr. Fu received the National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health from 1998-2000. He is a founding member of the International Society for Zinc Biology, and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

...read more


  • Associate Professor of Physiology

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes



  • B.S.; Fudan University (China) (1987)
  • Ph.D.; Mayo Medical School - Rochester (Minnesota) (1995)

Additional Training

  • Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, 1997, Membrane Biochemistry; University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA, 2000, X-ray Crystallography

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Zinc transporters regulate subcellular zinc distributions to ensure proper metalation of numerous zinc enzymes and signaling molecules. Fluctuations of cytosolic zinc concentration constitute the basis for zinc signaling, but also challenge zinc homeostasis with broad disease implications. Our research is focusing on ZnT8, a pancreatic zinc transporter that mediates zinc enrichment in insulin secretory granules. ZnT8 is a major self-antigen in type-1 diabetes, and also a major risk factor for type-2 diabetes. We are investigating molecular mechanisms driving pathophysiologic changes in pancreatic beta-cells, which are the sole provider of insulin in the human body. Enabling technologies have been developed to study the structure and dynamic of ZnT8 at the molecular level, and its physiological roles in regulating insulin processing and secretion in beta cells. Research findings are being translated to new diagnostic tools and therapeutic interventions for early detection and treatments of diabetes.


Lab Website: Fu Lab

Selected Publications

View all on PubMed

Lu M and Fu D*. Structure of the zinc transport YiiP. Science, 317:1746-8 (2007). This paper was selected as a Science highlight.

Gupta S, Chai J, Cheng, J, D'Mello R, Chance* MC, and Fu* D. Visualizing the kinetic power stroke that drives proton-coupled Zn(II) transport. Nature 512(7512):101-4(2014)

Merriman C, Huang Q, Rutter GA, Fu D*. Lipid-tuned Zinc Transport Activity of Human ZnT8 Protein Correlates with Risk for Type-2 Diabetes, JBC 291(53):26950-26957. (2016) This work was selected as a JBC paper-of-the-week.

Wan H, Merriman C, Wasserfall HC, Atkinson MA, Mcgrail KM, Liang Y, Fu D*, and Dai H* A novel proteoliposome-based full-length ZnT8 self-antigen for type 1 diabetes diagnosis on a plasmonic platform. PNAS 19;114(38):10196-10201 (2017).

Huang Q, Merriman C, Zhang H, Fu D*. Coupling of Insulin Secretion and Display of a Granule-resident Zinc Transporter ZnT8 on the Surface of Pancreatic Beta Cells, JBC 292(10):4034-4043 (2017).

Activities & Honors


  • National Research Service Award, National Institutes of Health, 1998 - 2000

Professional Activities

  • Member, Brookhaven Council, Brookhaven National Laboratory, 2009 - 2010
  • Member, Editorial board, Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2014
  • Member, Biochemistry and Biophysics of Membranes study section, NIH, 2010 - 2014

Videos & Media

Recent News Articles and Media Coverage

Zinc Transporter Protein Structure Deciphered, Brookhaven National Laboratory (August 23, 2007)

High-Res View of Zinc Transport Protein, Brookhaven National Laboratory (September 13, 2009)

Uptake Protein Acts as Zinc’s Doorway to the Cell, Brookhaven National Laboratory (November 22, 2010)

Protons Power Protein Portal to Push Zinc Out of Cells, Johns Hopkins Medicine (June 23, 2014)

Search On For Drug to Tame ‘Hyperactive’ Zinc Transporter and Lower Type 2 Diabetes Risk, Johns Hopkins Medicine (December 15, 2016)

Study Advances Efforts to Screen All Children for Type I Diabetes, Johns Hopkins Medicine (September 13, 2017)

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