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Zheng Li, Ph.D.

Room 2C1010
35 Convent DR MSC 3732
Bethesda MD 20892-3732
Office: (301) 594-2269

Fax: (301) 480-2561

Dr. Zheng Li received a Ph.D. degree from State University of New York at Stony Brook. Her graduate studies were carried out with Hollis Cline at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on the role of Rho GTPases in dendrite morphogenesis. She obtained postdoctoral training with Morgan Sheng at Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the molecular and cellular mechanism of synapse development and plasticity. Dr. Li joined NIMH as an Investigator in 2006. Her laboratory uses molecular and cellular biology, live imaging, and electrophysiological approaches to investigate the mechanisms underlying synaptic plasticity in development, cognition and psychiatric disorders, with an emphasis on schizophrenia.

The research interest of Dr. Zheng Li is the molecular and cellular mechanisms of synapse development and plasticity in normal and schizophrenic brains. Dr. Zheng Li's group employs a combination of optical imaging (two-photon and confocal), electrophysiology, behavioral and genomic approaches to identify molecules and signaling pathways that control the function, structure and plasticity of synapses. Currently Dr. Zheng Li's research is focusing on two areas: (1) the induction of mechanism of long-term depression of synaptic transmission (LTD, a form of synaptic plasticity that leads to the weakening of synaptic response and synapse loss and is important for brain development and cognition); and (2) the function of schizophrenia risk genes in regulating synapse development and plasticity. Dr. Zheng Li's group mainly conducts experiments with hippocampal neurons. The hippocampus is a brain structure essential for cognitive functions (e.g. learning and memory) and has been implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Dr. Zheng Li's group has recently uncovered a novel mechanism for LTD induction in hippocampal neurons which is mediated by caspases. Caspases have well-known functions in apoptosis. However, the findings from Dr. Zheng Li's lab suggest that in normal hippocampal neurons caspases activate the key cellular process that is responsible for reducing synaptic strength without causing cell death. In addition to normal synaptic plasticity, the work from Dr. Zheng Li's group indicates that some schizophrenia risk genes are important regulators of the structural and functional maturation of synapses, which provides insights to the neuronal basis of reduced mental performance associated with schizophrenia.

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  • 1) Jia J, Hu Z, Nordman J, Li Z (2014)
  • The schizophrenia susceptibility gene dysbindin regulates dendritic spine dynamics
  • Journal of Neuroscience, 34(41), 13725-13736
  • 2) Liu X*, Gu Q*, Duan K* and Li Z (2014)
  • NMDA receptor-dependent LTD is required for consolidation but not acquisition of fear memory, Journal of Neuroscience. *These authors contribute equally.
  • Journal of Neuroscience, 34(26), 8741-8
  • 3) Hu Z, Yu D, Gu Q, Yang Y, Zhu J and Li Z (2014)
  • miRNA-mediated regulation of gene expression for long-lasting spine remodeling associated with LTD
  • Nature Communications , 5, 3263
  • 4) Zhonghua Hu, Jun Zhao, Tianyi Hu , Yan Luo , Jun Zhu and Zheng Li (2014)
  • miR-501-3p mediates the activity-dependent regulation of the expression of AMPA receptor subunit GluA1
  • Journal of Cell Biology
  • 5) Hu Z, Zhao J, Hu T , Luo Y , Zhu J and Li Z (2014)
  • miR-501-3p mediates the activity-dependent regulation of the expression of AMPA receptor subunit GluA1
  • Journal of Cell Biology
  • 6) Gu Q, Yu D, Hu H, Liu X, Yang Y, Luo Y, Zhu J, and Li Z (2014)
  • miR-26a and miR-384-5p are required for LTP maintenance and spine enlargement
  • Nature Communications
  • 7) Jia J, Zhao J, Hu Z, Lindberg D and Li Z (2013)
  • Age-dependent regulation of synaptic connections by dopamine D2 receptors
  • Nature Neuroscience, 16(11), 1627-36
  • 8) Jiao S and Li Z (2011)
  • Non-apoptotic function of BAD and BAX in long-term depression of synaptic transmission
  • Neuron, 70(4), 758-72
  • 9) Li Z*, Jo J, Jia JM, Lo SC, Whitcomb DJ, Jiao S, Cho K, Sheng M. *Corresponding author (2010)
  • A non-apoptotic role for caspase-3 in long-term depression and AMPA receptor internalization
  • Cell, 141(5), 859-71
  • 10) Jia J, Arnheiter H and Li Z (2010)
  • Schizophrenia susceptibility gene DISC1 regulates dendritic spines through Kalirin-7 and Rac1
  • Cell Sci Reviews , 6(4), 13-19
  • 11) Li Z, Okamoto K, Hayashi Y, and Sheng M (2004)
  • The importance of dendritic mitochondria for the morphogenesis and plasticity of spines and synapses
  • Cell, 119(6), 873-87
  • 12) Li Z and Sheng M (2003)
  • Some Assembly Required: the development of neuronal synapses
  • Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol, 4(11), 833-41
  • 13) Li Z, Aizeman CD and Cline HT (2002)
  • Regulation of Rho GTPase by crosstalk and neuronal activity in vivo
  • Neuron, 33(5), 741-50
  • 14) Haas K, Sin WC, Javaherian A, Li Z, and Cline HT (2001)
  • Single-cell electroporation for gene transfer in vivo
  • Neuron , 29(3), 583-91
  • 15) Li Z, Van Aelst L, and Cline HT (2000)
  • Rho GTPases regulate distinct aspects of dendritic arbor growth in Xenopus central neurons in vivo
  • Nat Neurosci, 3(3), 217-25
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