Dr. Li obtained her B.S. in biology and M.S. in Botany from Peking University in 1997 and 2000, and her Ph.D. in Genetics (minor in Statistics) from Iowa State University in 2006. She had been an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology at Iowa State University from 2011. She has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Mississippi State University from 2017. Dr. Li has been developing an integrated experimental/biocomputational approach to identify the factors that regulate plant metabolism and plant adaptation to environmental changes, bridging basic research from Arabidopsis and application in crops.
Qi M, et al.,Li L(2018) QQS orphan gene and its interactor NF-YC4 reduce susceptibility to pathogens and pests, Plant Biotechnology Journal
O’Conner S, et al.,Li L(2018) From Arabidopsis to crops: the Arabidopsis QQS orphan gene modulates nitrogen allocation across species. In: Shrawat A, Zayed A, Lightfoot DA. eds. Engineering Nitrogen Utilization in Crop Plants, pp. 95-117. Springer Cham: Springer
Jones D, et al., andLi L* (2016) A clade-specific Arabidopsis gene connects primary metabolism and senescence. Frontiers in Plant Science, 7: 983 (*corresponding author)
Li L*, et al (2015) The QQS orphan gene regulates carbon and nitrogen partitioning across species via NF-YC interactions. PNAS, 112: 14734-14739
Li L*, and Wurtele ES* (2015) The QQS orphan gene of Arabidopsis modulates carbon and nitrogen allocation in soybean. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 13: 177-187
Arendsee Z,Li L*, and Wurtele ES* (2014) Coming of age: The species-specific (orphan) genes of plant. Trends in Plant Science, 19: 698-708
Li L, et al (2009) Identification of the novel protein QQS as a component of the starch metabolic network in Arabidopsis leaves. Plant Journal, 58: 485-498
A molecular tool to increase protein content and broad disease resistance in crops
1Department of Biological Sciences, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS 39762 USA
Crop plants must integrate signals from the environment and prioritize responses to stresses that may occur individually or simultaneously throughout the growing season. Stress responses can adversely affect plant growth and quality traits such as protein and starch. The ability to optimize protein productivity of plant-based foods has far-ranging impact on world health and sustainability. Plant diseases each year cause major losses to crop production. The Arabidopsis thaliana QQS orphan gene modulates carbon allocation to protein and starch1. Ectopic QQS expression increases protein content2 in leaf and seed in soybean, in corn and rice3,4. QQS transcript levels are altered in plants under stresses and in mutants of genes involved in all sorts of stress responses, indicating that QQS may integrate primary metabolism with environmental perturbations, thus adjusting the plant’s adaption to abiotic and biotic stresses5. The QQS protein binds to a transcriptional regulator in Arabidopsis and its homologs in crops: Nuclear Factor Y subunit C4 (NF-YC4). NF-YC4 overexpression mimics QQS-overexpression phenotype4. Mutants overexpressing QQS or NF-YC4 have significantly increased resistance to plant pathogens and pests6,7. We are developing a non-transgenic strategy to create high-protein crops and enhance broad-spectrum disease resistance6. Transcriptomics analyses enable new discovery to advance basic research and application in crops.
1Li L, Foster C, Gan Q, Nettleton D, James MG, Myers AM, and Wurtele ES. Identification of the novel protein QQS as a component of the starch metabolic network in Arabidopsis leaves. Plant Journal. 2009; 58: 485-498.
2Li L, Wurtele ES. Materials and methods for modifying a biochemical component in a plant. U.S. App. 20120222167 A1, U.S. patent 9157091. 2015; U.S. patent office.
3Li L, and Wurtele ES. The QQS orphan gene of Arabidopsis modulates carbon and nitrogen allocation in soybean. Plant Biotechnology Journal. 2015; 13: 177-187.
4Li L, Zheng W, Zhu Y, Ye H, Tang B, Arendsee Z, Jones D, Li R, Ortiz D, Zhao X, Du C, Nettleton D, Scott P, Salas-Fernandez M, Yin Y, and Wurtele ES. The QQS orphan gene regulates carbon and nitrogen partitioning across species via NF-YC interactions. PNAS. 2015; 112: 14734-14739.
5Arendsee Z, Li L, and Wurtele ES. Coming of age: orphan genes in plants. Trends in Plant Science. 2014; 19: 698-708.
6Li L, Wurtele ES. Plant genes for increased protein content and resistance to stress. U.S. Provisional Pat. App. No. 62/244,131. 2015; U.S. patent office.
7Qi M, Zheng W, Zhao X, Hohenstein J, Kandel Y, O'Conner S, Wang Y, Du C, Nettleton D, Macintosh G, Tylka G, Wurtele E, Whitham S, and Li L. QQS orphan gene and its interactor NF-YC4 reduce susceptibility to pathogens and pests. Plant Biotechnology Journal. 2018; DOI:10.1111/pbi.12961.