Lei Li Associate Professor

Lei Li

Research Interests:

The primary interest of our research is to study the mechanisms underlying age-related visual system diseases that affect man. In particular, we are interested in searching for gene mutations that cause photoreceptor cell degeneration. Using a behavioral assay based on visually mediated escape responses, we screen for mutants (in zebrafish, a vertebrate model for molecular genetics) that show abnormal visual behaviors, i.e., night blind. We characterize the mutants at both cellular and molecular and system levels.

Another major interest of our research is to study the modulatory effect of intrinsic and environmental cues on visual sensitivity. In a 24-hour period, zebrafish are most sensative to light in the late afternoon and least sensitive in the early morning. This is controlled by endogenous circadian clocks. A number of factors, for example, the release of dopamine and centrifugal input from the olfactory bulb may affect the circadian rhythms of visual sensitivity. We are interested in understanding how that happens.



  • Associate Professor, University of Notre Dame
  • Ph.D., Georgia State University
  • Postdoc., Harvard University


Recent Papers:

  • Li, L. (2019) Circadian vision in zebrafish: from molecule to cell and from neural network to behavior. Journal of Biological Rhythms (In press).
  • Li, L. (2019) Sensory integration: cross-modal communication between the olfactory and visual systems in zebrafish. Chemical Senses (In press).
  • Li, L., Liu C, Carr AL (2019) STIL: A multi-function protein for dopaminergic neural proliferation, protection, and regeneration. Cell Death Discovery 5:90.
  • Banerjee S, Scheirer WJ, Li, L. (2019) An extreme value theory model of cross-modal sensory information integration in  modulation of vertebrate visual system functions. Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience 13:3.
  • Li, L., Wojtowicz JL, Malin JH, Huang T, Lee JB, Chen ZJ (2017) GnRH-mediated olfactory and visual inputs promote mating-like behaviors in male zebrafish. PLoS ONE: 12:e0174143.
  • Li, L., Sahi SK, Peng M, Lee EB, Ma L, Wojtowicz JL, Malin JH, Chen W (2016) Luminescence- and nanoparticle-mediated increase of visual sensitivity: Converting UV light to visible light. Scientific Reports 6:20821.
  • Li, L., Carr AL, Sun L, Drewing A, Lee J, Rao ZH (2015) A novel function of the human oncogene Stil: Regulation of PC12 cell toxic susceptibility through the Shh pathway. Scientific Reports 5:16513.
  • Zhao SS, Wang YL, Sun MZ, Lu L, Wang YN, Pfister D, Lee J, Zhao X, Feng XZ, Li, L. (2015) Drug screening: Zebrafish as a tool for studying epileptic-related drug. Protein & Cell 6:853-857.
  • Pfister D, Yu CJ, Kim DS, Li J, Drewing A, Li, L. (2015) Zebrafish olfacto-retinal centrifugal axonal projection: Effects of dopamine and GnRH signaling. Developmental Neuroscience 38, 27-33.
  • Sun L, Li P, Carr AL, Gorsuch R, Yarka C, Li J, Bartlett M, Pfister D, Hyde DR, Li, L. (2014) The SCL/TAL1 interruptinglocus (Stil) is required for cell proliferation in adult zebrafish retinas. Journal of Biological Chemistry 289:6934-6940.
  • Carr AL, Sun L, Lee E, Li P, Antonacci C, Gorbea E, Finlay C, Li, L. (2014) The human oncogene SCL/TAL1 interrupting locus is required for mammalian dopaminergic cell proliferation through the Sonic hedgehog pathway. Cellular Signaling 26, 306-312.