Li is a USDA-ARS Research Molecular Biologist at the Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health on the Cornell campus. Li’s research is on improving the nutritional quality of food crops. Her research program focuses on gene discovery, understanding of the regulatory mechanisms of phytonutrient (phytochemical) metabolism, micronutrient nutrition, plant biotechnology, and biofortification of food crops.
Plant secondary metabolism, micronutrient nutrition, and metabolic engineering
We are interested in using molecular and genetic approaches to enhance the nutritional quality and health-promoting properties of food crops for better human nutrition and health. Our research program concentrates on discovering new genes that control phytonutrient and micronutrient levels in crops, elucidating the underlying molecular and biochemical mechanisms, employing plant biotechnology to metabolically engineer plants to develop nutrient enriched crops, and examining micronutrient nutrition in crops. Current research projects focus primarily on carotenoid, flavonoid, and glucosinolate metabolisms, selenium, zinc, and sulfur nutrition, and chromoplast and chloroplast biogenesis.
It is our goal to identify novel genetic tools and develop new strategies for improving crop nutritional quality. We use vegetables and fruits along with Arabidopsis as model systems to uncover new genes and investigate how the biosynthesis and accumulation of carotenoids, flavonoids, and glucosinolates are controlled in plants. An integration of genetic, molecular, biochemical, physiological, and omics approaches is employed. We use Brassica and staple crops as model systems to study selenium, sulfur, and zinc nutrition and examine the factors affecting their uptake and accumulation to provide better information for biofortification of crops. We apply genetic engineering strategies to introduce new genes into crops to test their potential for nutritional quality improvement.
Sun T, Zhou F, Huang X, Kong M, Chen W, Li L, Lu S (2019) ORANGE represses chloroplast biogenesis in etiolated Arabidopsis cotyledons via interacting with TCP14. The Plant Cell 31:2996-3014
Cao H, Luo H, Yuan H, Eissa MA, Thannhauser TW, Welsch R, Hao YJ, Cheng L, Li L (2019) A neighboring aromatic-aromatic amino acid combination governs activity divergence of tomato PSY1 and PSY2. Plant Physiology 180:1988-2003
Yazdani M*, Sun Z*, Yuan H, Zeng S, Thannhauser T, Vrebalov J, Ma Q, Xu Y, Fei Z, Van Eck J, Tian S, Tadmor Y, Giovannoni J, Li L (2019) Ectopic expression of ORANGE promotes carotenoid accumulation and fruit development in tomato. Plant Biotechnology Journal 17:33-49
Welsch R*, Zhou X*, Yuan H*, Álvarez D, Sun T, Schlossarek D, Yang Y, Shen G, Zhang H, Rodriguez-Concepcion M, Thannhauser TW, and Li L (2018)Clp protease and OR directly control the proteostasis of phytoene synthase, the crucial enzyme for carotenoid biosynthesis in Arabidopsis. Molecular Plant 11:149-162
Sun T, Yuan H, Cao H, Yazdani M, Tadmor Y, Li L (2018) Carotenoid metabolism in plants: the role of plastids. Molecular Plant 11:58-74
Chayut N, Yuan H, Ohali S, Meir A, Sa‘ar U, Tzuri G, Zheng Y, Mazourek M, Gepstein S, Zhou X, Portnoy V, Lewinsohn E, Schaffer AA, Katzir N, Fei Z, Welsch R, Li L, Burger J, Tadmor Y (2017)Distinct mechanisms of the ORANGE protein in controlling carotenoid flux.Plant physiology173:376-389
Zhang J*, Yuan H*, Yang Y, Fish T, Lyi SM, Thannhauser TW, Zhang L, Li L (2016) Plastid ribosomal protein S5 is involved in photosynthesis, plant development, and cold stress tolerance in Arabidopsis. Journal of Experimental Botany 67:2731-2744
Yuan H, Zhang J, Coimbatore D, Li L (2015) Carotenoid metabolism and regulation in horticultural crops. Horticulture Research2:15036
Yuan H, Owsiany K, Sheeja T, Zhou X, Rodriguez C, Li Y, Welsch R, Chayut N, Yang Y, Thannhauser TW, Partjasaratju MV, Xu Q, Deng X, Fei Z, Schaffer A, Katzir N, Burger J, Tadmor Y, Li L. (2015) A single amino acid substitution of the orange protein causes carotenoid accumulation in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology 169:421-431
Zhou X, Welsch R, Yang Y, Riediger M, Álvarez D, Yuan H, Fish T, Liu J, Thannhauser TW, Li L (2015) Arabidopsis OR proteins are the major post-transcriptional regulators of phytoene synthase in mediating carotenoid biosynthesis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 112:3558-3563
Tzuri G*, Zhou X*, Chayut N*, Yuan H, Portnoy V, Meir A, Saar U, Baumkoler F, Yuan H, Mazourek M, Lewinsohn E, Fei Z, Schaffer AA, Li L, Burger J, Katzir N. Tadmor Y. (2015) A “golden” SNP in CmOr governs fruit flesh color in melon (Cucumis melo). The Plant Journal82:267-279
Nisar N, Li L, Lu S, Khin NC, Pogson BJ (2015) Carotenoid metabolism in plants. Molecular Plant 8, 68-82
Wang YQ, Yang Y, Fei Z, Yuan H, Fish T, Thannhauser TW, Mazourek M, Kochian LV, Wang X, Li L (2013) Proteomic analysis of chromoplasts from six crop species reveals insights into chromoplast function and development. Journal of Experimental Botany64:949-961
Li L,Yang Y, Xu Q, Owsiang K, Welsch R, Chitchumroonchokchai C, Lu S, Van Eck J, Deng X, Failla M, Thannhauser TW (2012) The Or gene enhances carotenoid accumulation and stability during post-harvest storage of potato tubers. Molecular Plant 5: 339-352
Chiu LW, Zhou X, Burke S, Wu X, Prior RL, and Li L (2010) The purple cauliflower arises from activation of a MYB transcription factor. Plant Physiology154: 1470-1480
Zhou X, Yuan Y, Yang Y, Rutzke M, Thannhauser TW, Kochian LV, Li L (2009) Involvement of a broccoli COQ5 methyltransferase in the production of volatile selenium compounds. Plant Physiology 151:528-540
Lu S, Van Eck J, Zhou X, Lopex AB, O'Halloran DM, Cosman KM, Conlin B, Paolillo DJ, Garvin DF, Vrebalov J, Kochian L, V, Kupper H, Earle ED, Cao J, and Li L (2006) The cauliflower Or gene encodes a DnaJ cysteine-rich domain-containing protein that mediates high-levels of b-carotene accumulation. The Plant Cell 18: 3594-3605
Lyi SM, Heller LI, Rutzke M, Welch RM, Kochian LV, Li L (2005) Molecular and biochemical characterization of the selenocysteine Se-methyltransferase gene and Se-methylselenocysteine synthesis in broccoli. Plant Physiology 138:409-420
We have open positions for undergraduates, PhD students, and postdoctoral research associates. Please contact Dr. Li Li (LL37 [at] cornell.edu) if you are interested.
140 Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health
Ithaca, NY 14853