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Dax Fu, Ph.D.

Photo of Dr. Dax Fu, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Physiology

Research Interests: Zinc physiology with a focus on structure, function and regulation of zinc transporters


Dr. Dax Fu is an associate professor of physiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research focuses on zync physiology, with particular emphasis on the structure, function and regulation of zinc transporters.

Dr. Fu received his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from the Shanghai Medical College of Fudan University in Shanghai, 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 has published several peer-reviewed articles and has presented his work at several conferences. more


  • Associate Professor of Physiology

Departments / Divisions



  • 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 a wide range of cellular proteins that amount to about a third of a mammalian proteome. For example, a human zinc transporter (ZnT8) enriches zinc in the insulin-containing vesicles of pancreatic beta cells where zinc is required for insulin dense core formation. Glucose stimulations trigger zinc and insulin co-secretion. The released zinc serves as an autocrine regulator of insulin secretion and a paracrine regulator of insulin clearance. ZnT8 inhibition could be a potential therapeutic strategy for diabetes.

The goal of Dr. Fu’s laboratory is to understand which step in zinc transport can be modulated and how. The lab investigates the physicochemical principles governing zinc transport using an integrated approach of membrane biochemistry, biophysics and structural biology. Parallel cell biology and proteomic approaches are used to understand how these physicochemical principles are applied to mammalian zinc transporters and integrated to physiology of pancreatic beta cells.

Lab Website: Fu Lab

Selected Publications

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, 2014. In press.

Hoch E, Lin W, Chai J, Hershfinkel M, Fu D, Sekler I. "Histidine pairing at the metal transport site of mammalian ZnT transporter controls Zn2+ over Cd2+ selectivity." Proc Natl Acad Sci U.S.A.,109(19):7202-7207, 2012.

Lin W, Chai J, Love J and Fu D. "Selective electrodiffusion of zinc ions in a Zrt-, Irt-like protein, ZIPB." J Biol Chem. 285(50):39013-20, 2010.

Lu M, Chai J and Fu D. "Structural basis for autoregulation of the zinc transporter YiiP." Nat Struct Mol Biol. 16(10):1063-1067, 2009.

Lu M and Fu D. "Structure of the zinc transport YiiP." Science. 317:1746-8, 2007.

Fu D and Lu M. "The structural basis of water permeation and proton exclusion in aquaporins (Review)." Mol Membr Biol. 24(5):366-374, 2007.

Wei Y and Fu D. "Binding and transport of metal ions at the dimer interface of the Escherichia coli metal transporter YiiP." J Biol Chem. 281(33):23492-23502, 2006.

Jiang J., Daniels B.V. and Fu D. Crystal structure of AqpZ tetramer reveals two distinct Arg-189 conformations associated with water permeation through the narrowest constriction of the water-conducting channel. J Biol Chem., 281(1):454-460, 2006.

Wei Y. and Fu D. Selective metal binding to a membrane-embedded aspartate in the Escherichia coli metal transporter YiiP (FieF). J Biol Chem., 280(40):33716-33724, 2005.

Wei Y., Li H. and Fu D. Oligomeric state of the Escherichia coli metal transporter YiiP. J Biol Chem., 279(38):39251-39259, 2004.

Activities & Honors


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

Professional Activities

  • Basic Energy Science (BES) Panel, 2007
  • Brookhaven Council, 2009 - 2010
  • Editorial board, Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2014
  • Membrane transport and biophysics advisory panel, NSF, 2010 - 2014
    Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) division
  • Reviewer, DOE, 2013
    Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES)
  • Reviewer, Basic Energy Sciences (BES), DOE, 2012
    Heavy element chemistry program
  • Reviewer, NSF, 2009
    Molecular Biochemistry Panel
  • Special emphasis panel, Program project: Center for Macromolecular Crystallography, NIH, 2012
    ZRG1 MCMB-P 40 P
  • Study Section, NIH, 2012
    Biochemistry and Biophysics of Membranes
  • ZRG1 MDCN-G (91), Cellular Neurosciences, 2014
    Special Emphasis Panel
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