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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Susan Zunino

Research Molecular Biologist




Ph.D., Cell and Molecular Biology

Program in the School of Medicine


University of Nevada, Reno


Office:     430 West Health Sciences Dr.

                 University of California

                 Davis, CA 95616


Phone:     (530) 752-5156


Fax:         (530) 752-5271



Zunino Lab






Dr. Zunino received a Bachelor’s degree in biology and a PhD. in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Nevada, Reno.  She received her postdoctoral training at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Pathology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.  She then held an Assistant Professor position in the Department of Genetics at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany where she studied the role of antioxidant phytochemicals as potential chemotherapeutic agents against infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which is refractory to conventional chemotherapeutic agents.  Dr. Zunino joined the Western Human Nutrition Research Center in 2003 to continue studies of phytochemicals and their anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activities.  She also serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of California, Davis, and is a member of the American Association of Immunologists, American Association for Cancer Research, and American Society for Nutrition. 


Research Program


The overall objective of Dr. Zunino’s research is to understand how phytochemicals from fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices regulate the immune system. Dr. Zunino has recently completed two human feeding studies to understand how dietary strawberries and grapes can affect lipids and inflammation in obese individuals and lower the risk of obesity-related disease, such as cardiovascular disease. Dr. Zunino has also conducted studies to examine the anti-leukemia and anti-inflammatory activities of phytochemicals and phytochemical-rich foods using mouse models for leukemia and autoimmune disease. Current research is designed to examine the role of fruits in modulating immune function and decreasing the risk for infection in obesity. These studies will aid in defining appropriate dietary intake levels of foods rich in phytochemicals that may contribute to a healthy immune system and reduction of disease in humans.


Research Accomplishments


Discovered that eating strawberries or grapes increased the sensitivity of monocytes from obese humans to bacterial components in a cell culture system.


Found that feeding type 1 diabetic mice food containing 1% grape powder delayed the progression of diabetic inflammation and increased survival of the mice compared to mice receiving regular food. 


Found that one of the metabolites of the phytochemical resveratrol which is found in grapes disrupted mitochondrial function in leukemia cells. 


Selected Publications


1.  Zunino SJ, Storms DH.  Physiological levels of resveratrol metabolites are ineffective as anti-leukemia agents against Jurkat leukemia cells.  Nutr Cancer 67: 266-274, 2015.


2.  Kelley DS, Adkins YC, Zunino SJ, Woodhouse LR, Bonnel EL, Breksa AP, Manners GD, Mackey BE.  Citrus limonin glucoside supplementation decreased biomarkers of liver disease and inflammation in overweight human adults.  J Functional Foods 12: 271-281, 2015.


3.  Zunino SJ, Peerson JM, Freytag TL, Breksa III AP, Bonnel EL, Woodhouse LR, Storms DH.  Dietary grape powder increased IL-1b and IL-6 production in LPS-activated monocytes and reduced plasma concentrations of large LDL particles and large LDL cholesterol in obese humans.  Br J Nutr 112: 369-380, 2014.


4.  Zunino SJ, Storms DH, Freytag TL, Mackey BE, Zhao L, Gouffon JS, Hwang DH.  Dietary strawberries increase proliferative response of CD3/CD28-activated CD8+ T cells and production of TNF-a in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated monocytes from obese humans.  Br J Nutr 110: 2011-2019, 2013.


5.  Zunino SJ, Storms DH, Newman JW, Pedersen TL, Keen CL, Ducore JM.  Oral or parenteral administration of curcumin does not prevent the growth of high-risk t(4;11) acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells engrafted into a NOD/SCID mouse model.  Int J Oncol 42: 741-748, 2013.


6.  Zunino SJ, Parelman MA, Freytag TL, Stephensen CB, Kelley DS, Mackey BE, Woodhouse LR, Bonnel EL.  Effects of dietary strawberry powder on blood lipids and inflammatory markers in obese human subjects.  Br J Nutr 108: 900-909, 2012.


7.  Parelman MA, Storms DH, Kirschke CP, Huang L, Zunino SJ.  Dietary strawberry powder reduces blood glucose concentrations in obese and lean C57BL/6 mice, and selectively lowers plasma C-reactive protein in lean mice.  Br J Nutr 108: 1789-1799, 2012.


8.  Zunino SJ, Storms DH, Newman JW, Pedersen TL, Keen CL, Ducore JM.  Resveratrol given intraperitoneally does not inhibit the growth of high-risk t(4;11) acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells in a NOD/SCID mouse model.  Int J Oncol 40: 1277-1284, 2012.


9.  Zunino SJ, Storms DH, Newman JW, Pedersen TL, Keen CL, Ducore JM.  Dietary resveratrol does not delay engraftment, sensitize to vincristine, or inhibit growth of high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells in NOD/SCID mice.  Int J Oncol 41: 2207-2212, 2012.


10.  Zunino SJ.  Type 2 diabetes and glycemic response to grapes or grape products.  J Nutr 139: 1794S-1800S, 2009.


11.  Zunino SJ, Storms DH, Stephensen CB.  Diet rich in polyphenols and vitamin A inhibit type I autoimmune diabetes in nonobese diabetic mice.  J Nutr 137: 1216-1221, 2007.



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Last Modified: 8/27/2015