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Li Li

Li Li

Adjunct Professor

140 Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health
(607) 255-5708

Li is an adjunct professor in the Section of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University. She is also a USDA-ARS Research Molecular Biologist at the Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture and Health on the Cornell campus. Li Li received her Ph.D. degree in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry from the University of Reading in England. Her research program focuses mainly on gene discovery and elucidation of the molecular mechanisms underlying phytonutrient biosynthesis and micronutrient metabolism, as well as plant biotechnology and biofortification of food crops. The ultimate goal of her research is to improve the nutritional quality and health-promoting properties of food crops.

Research Focus

We are interested in using molecular and genetic approaches to enhance the nutritional quality and health-promoting properties of food crops. Our research program concentrates on discovering new genetic elements that control phytonutrient and micronutrient levels in crops, investigating the underlying genetic and molecular mechanisms, biofortifying nutrients in crops, and plant biotechnology to metabolically engineer them in crops. Current research projects focus primarily on carotenoids, flavonoids, glucosinolates, selenium, and zinc in plants.

We use vegetables and fruits as model systems to study how the biosynthesis and accumulation of carotenoids, flavonoids, and glucosinolates are controlled in plants. An integration of genetic, molecular, physiological and omics approaches is employed to investigate the quality traits in crops as well as to discover and functional characterize genes and proteins important for these phytonutrient metabolism. We also use Brassica and staple crops as model systems to study selenium and zinc nutrition and examine the factors affecting their uptake and accumulation to provide information for biofortification of them in crops. It is our goal to identify novel genetic tools and reveal new strategies for improving crop nutritional quality.

Teaching Focus

Nutritional Quality Improvement of Food Crops

Additional Links

Selected Publications

  • Sun T, Li L (2020) Toward the ‘golden’ era: the status in uncovering regulatory control of carotenoid accumulation in plants. Plant Science 290:110343
  • Tan H, Wang X, Fei Z, Li H, Tadmor Y, Mazourek M, Li L (2020) Genetic mapping of green curd gene Gr in cauliflower. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 133:353-364
  • Zhu Q, Wang B, Tan J, Liu T, Li L, Liu YG (2020) Plant synthetic metabolic engineering for enhancing crop nutritional quality. Plant Communications 1:100017
  • Welsch R*, Zhou X*, Koschmieder J, Schlossarek T, Yuan H, Sun T, Li L (2020) Characterization of cauliflower OR mutant variants. Frontier in Plant Science 10:1716
  • 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
  • Huang D, Wang X, Tang Z, Yuan Y, Xu Y, He J, Jiang X, Peng SA, Li L, Butelli E, Deng X, Xu Q (2018) Subfunctionalization of the Ruby2-Ruby1 gene cluster during the domestication of citrus. Nature Plants 4:930-941
  • 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