Jeannette Tenthorey

Assistant Professor
Background and Training

Jeannette hails from a small town in Connecticut, but by 18 had decided that the West Coast was more her style. As an undergraduate, she studied biology at Reed College in Portland, Oregon (yes, you can probably blame Reed for the wild hair colors and other personality quirks). Her undergraduate thesis was with Jay Mellies, where she studied virulence regulation in enteropathogenic E. coli – this sparked her long-standing interest in infectious disease. They say your first pathogen always keeps a special place in your heart…

After graduation, Jeannette worked for 2 years as a research technician with Dave Morgan at UCSF. While studying the enzymology of the yeast anaphase-promoting complex, she developed skills as a budding (wink) biochemist and structural biologist. These tools proved invaluable during her Ph.D. with Russell Vance at UC, Berkeley, where she combined her love of infectious disease and immunology with biochemistry to study the mechanism of an innate immune defensive system – the NAIP/NLRC4 inflammasome – that senses and restricts cell-invasive bacterial pathogens. Her work revealed the specific inflammasome domains used to bind bacterial ligands, and how this binding activates inflammasome defense signaling. In the course of her studies, she uncovered a mechanism (multi-surface recognition of bacterial ligands) that limits the ability of pathogens to escape immune recognition.

This sparked Jeannette’s interest in the tit-for-tat evolutionary arms races that play out between pathogens and their hosts. She went on to study these arms races as a Hanna Gray postdoctoral fellow co-mentored by Harmit Malik and Michael Emerman, the kings of host-virus arms races. As a postdoc, Jeannette mapped the first evolutionary landscape of an innate immune protein, TRIM5, revealing remarkably evolutionary plasticity in its viral recognition functions.

Jeannette returned to UCSF in 2023 to start her independent research group. She remains committed to the mentorship of future scientists from all backgrounds, and to improving the culture of research with overly idealistic principles.

Other interests

When not in the lab, you will most likely find Jeannette exploring the out-doors. She enjoys backpacking, back-country skiing, and kayaking, among other outdoor adventures. Two weeks a year you might also run into her in the deep Nevada desert, constructing and/or burning down transient art projects. She is also an avid baker thanks to binging the Great British Bake-Off, with a heavy focus on sourdough breads.

Jeannette is parent to two young children, neither of whom share these loves (yet!).

600 16th Street, #N372B, Box 2200
San Francisco CA 94158
[email protected]
Pronouns: She/her