Rhea Sumpter, M.D., Ph.D.


Department: Internal Medicine


Dr. Sumpter is originally from Dunwoody, Georgia and was initially drawn to UT Southwestern because of its Medical Scientist Training Program with a reputation for clinical and scientific excellence and a strong institutional commitment to training clinician scientists. After finishing his combined MD/PhD degree, he joined the Physician Scientist Training Program at UT Southwestern and completed his residency in Internal Medicine and clinical fellowship in Infectious Diseases. During his postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Beth Levine, Dr. Sumpter studied autophagy: an ancient, phylogenetically conserved catabolic pathway involved in “cellular housekeeping” that keeps our cells free from protein aggregates, damaged organelles, and invading pathogens. Accumulation of these substrates of the autophagy pathway has been linked to many diseases, including neurodegenerative disease, cancer, and aging as well as infectious diseases. Dr. Sumpter is focused understanding how autophagy substrates (such as viruses and damaged mitochondria) are specifically targeted for autophagic destruction to keep our cells healthy with the long-term goal of identifying new therapeutic targets for infectious and autoinflammatory diseases. Dr. Sumpter’s interests outside of medicine include his family, reading, travel, and cycling.


Medical School UT Southwestern Medical Center (2006)
Medical School UT Southwestern Medical Center (2006)
Residency UTSW - Internal Medicine Residency Program (2008), Internal Medicine
Fellowship UT Southwestern Medical Center (2012), Infectious Disease
Research Fellowship UT Southwestern Medical Center (2013), Internal Medicine

Research Interests

  • Autophagy
  • Inflammation
  • Innate Immunity


Featured Publications Legend

Featured Publications

Exercise induces autophagy in peripheral tissues and in the brain.

He C, Sumpter R, Levine B Autophagy 2012 Oct 8 10

Image-based genome-wide siRNA screen identifies selective autophagy factors.

Orvedahl A, Sumpter R, Xiao G, Ng A, Zou Z, Tang Y, Narimatsu M, Gilpin C, Sun Q, Roth M, Forst CV, Wrana JL, Zhang YE, Luby-Phelps K, Xavier RJ, Xie Y, Levine B Nature 2011 Dec 480 7375 113-7

Selective autophagy and viruses.

Sumpter R, Levine B Autophagy 2011 Mar 7 3 260-5

Autophagy and innate immunity: triggering, targeting and tuning.

Sumpter R, Levine B Semin. Cell Dev. Biol. 2010 Sep 21 7 699-711

Autophagy protects against Sindbis virus infection of the central nervous system.

Orvedahl A, MacPherson S, Sumpter R, Tallóczy Z, Zou Z, Levine B Cell Host Microbe 2010 Feb 7 2 115-27

Results 1-5 of 5
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  • Career Development Award
    Association of American Physicians/American Society for Clinical Investigation (2012)
  • Alpha Omega Alpha
    UT Southwestern Medical School (2006)
  • Hemphill-Glojer Award
    UT Southwestern Medical School (2006)
  • S. Edward Sulkin Memorial Scholarship
    Department of Molecular Microbiology, UT Southwestern (2004)
  • Fulbright Fellowship, Argentina
    U.S. Department of State (1997)

Professional Associations/Affiliations

  • American Society for Virology (2000)