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, P., Shah, S., Huang, L., Carr, A. L., Gao, Y., Thisse, C., Thisse, B., & Li, L. (2007). Cloning and spatial and temporal expression of zebrafish dopamine D1 receptor. Dev Dyn 236, 1339-1346.
  • Yu, C. J., Gao, Y., Li, P. & Li, L. (2007). Synchronizing multiphasic circadian rhythms of rhodopsin promoter expression in rod photoreceptor cells. J Exp Biol 210, 676-684.
  • Yu, C. J., Gao, Y., Willis, C. L., Li, P., Tiano, J. P., Nakamura, P. A., Hyde, D. R. & Li, L. (2007). MAPK- and PKA-dependent regulation of rhodopsin promoter expression in zebrafish rod photoreceptor cells. J Neurosci Res 85, 488-496.
  • Li, L. & Maaswinkel, H. (2006). Visual sensitivity and signaling processing in teleosts. In: Sensory System Neuroscience (Eds: TJ Hara and BS Zielinski). Vol 25, 179-241.
  • Huang, L. & Li, L. (2006.) Differential expression of voltage-activated calcium currents in zebrafish retinal ganglion cells. J Neurosci Res 84, 497-504.
  • Huang, L., Maaswinkel, H. & Li, L. (2005). Olfactoretinal centrifugal input modulates zebrafish retinal ganglion cell activity: A possible role for dopamine-mediated Ca2+ signaling pathways. J Physiol (Lond) 569, 939-948.
  • Yu, C. J. & Li, L. (2005). Dopamine modulates voltage-activated potassium currents in zebrafish retinal ON bipolar cells. J Neurosci Res 82, 368-376.
  • Maaswinkel, H., Riesbeck, L. E., Riley, M. E., Carr, A. L., Mullin, J. P., Nakamoto, A. & Li, L. (2005). Behavioral screening of night blindness mutants in zebrafish reveals three new loci that cause dominant photoreceptor cell degeneration. Mech Age Dev 126, 1079-1089.
  • Gao, Y., Li, P. & Li, L. (2005). A transgenic zebrafish that expresses TH promoter in inner retinal cells. Dev Dyn 233, 921-929.
  • Li, P., Temple, S., Gao, Y., Haimberger, T. J., Hawryshyn, C. W. & Li, L. (2005). Circadian rhythms of behavioral cone sensitivity and long wavelength opsin mRNA expression: A correlation study in zebrafish. J Exp Biol 208, 497-504.