Department of Biological Sciences

School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Faculty and Research

Li Zhang, Ph.D.

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Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Systems Biology


B.S., Chemistry, Zhongshan University, China
Ph.D., Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles
Postdoctoral Fellow, Biology, MIT

Heme regulates diverse processes ranging from transcriptional regulation to iron sensing by controlling the activity of regulators, such as Hap1, HRI, Bach1 and IRR.

Dr. Li Zhang has made major contributions to understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying heme signaling in eukaryotic cells. Heme is central to oxygen sensing and utilization in virtually all living organisms. In mammals, heme is critical for erythroid, hepatic, and neuronal functions. Oxygen sensing is directly related to many fundamental physiological and pathological processes, including angiogenesis, tumor development, and ischemia. Investigating the molecular mechanism of oxygen sensing and heme signaling is the main objective of Dr. Zhang′s lab. Furthermore, Dr. Zhang's lab is interested in investigating the molecular mechanisms by which common neurotoxicants act in neural cells, because studies of neurotoxicants should facilitate the understanding of many neural functions and neurological diseases. Dr. Zhang′s lab combines approaches of molecular and cellular biology with genomics and computational approaches to elucidate the global molecular mechanisms underlying cellular responses to environmental stressors, including hypoxia and environmental toxicants.

Dr. Zhang recently joined the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology as Professor and Head, coming from Columbia University, where she was professor of Environmental Health Sciences. Dr. Zhang also holds the Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Systems Biology Science.

Selected Publications

Zhang, L., L. Guarente. 1995. Heme binds to a short sequence that serves a regulatory function in diverse proteins. Embo J. 14: 313-20

Zhang, L., A. Hach, C. Wang. 1998. Molecular Mechanism Governing Heme Signaling in Yeast: a Higher-Order Complex Mediates Heme Regulation of the Transcriptional Activator HAP1. Mol Cell Biol. 18: 3819-28

Hon, T., H. C. Lee, A. Hach, J. L. Johnson, E. A. Craig, H. Erdjument-Bromage, P. Tempst, L. Zhang. 2001. The Hsp70-Ydj1 Molecular Chaperone Represses the Activity of the Transcriptional Activator Hap1 in the Absence of Heme. Mol Cell Biol. 21: 7923-32

Zhu, Y., T. Hon, W. Ye, L. Zhang. 2002. Heme Deficiency Selectively Interferes with the Ras-MAPK Signaling Pathway and Expression of a Subset of Neuronal Genes. Cell Grow. & Diff. 13: 431-9

Hon, T., A. Dodd, R. Dirmeier, N. Gorman, P. R. Sinclair, L. Zhang, R. O. Poyton. 2003. A Mechanism of Oxygen Sensing in Yeast: Multiple Oxygen-Responsive Steps in the Heme Biosynthetic Pathway Affect Hap1 activity. J Biol Chem. 278: 50771-80

Lan, C., H. C. Lee, S. Tang, L. Zhang. 2004. A Novel Mode of Chaperone Action: Heme Activation of Hap1 by Enhanced Association of Hsp90 with the Repressed Hsp70-Hap1 Complex. J Biol Chem 279: 27607-12

Hon, T., H. C. Lee, Z. Hu, V. R. Iyer, L. Zhang. 2005. The Heme Activator Protein Hap1 Represses Transcription by a Heme-Independent Mechanism in Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. Genetics 169: 1343-52

Sengupta, A., T. Hon, L. Zhang. 2005. Heme Deficiency Suppresses the Expression of Key Neuronal Genes and Causes Neuronal Cell Death. Mol. Brain Res. 137: 23-30

Mense, S. M., L. Zhang. 2006. Heme: A versatile signaling molecule that modulates the activity of diverse regulators ranging from transcription factors to MAP kinases. Cell Research 16: 681-692

Mense, S. M., A. Sengupta, C. Lan, M. Zhou, G. Bentsman, D. J. Volsky, L. Zhang. 2006. Gene expression profiling reveals the profound upregulation of hypoxia-responsive genes in primary human astrocytes. Physiol Genomics 25: 435-49

Sengupta A., S. M. Mense, C. Lan, M. Zhou, R. E. Mauro, L. Kellerman, G. Bentsman, D. J. Volsky, E. D. Louis, J. H. Graziano JH, L. Zhang. 2007. Gene Expression Profiling of Human Primary Astrocytes Exposed to Manganese Chloride Indicates Selective Effects on Several Functions of the Cells. Neurotoxicology 28: 478-489

Mauro R. E., L. Zhang. 2007. Unique insights into actions of CNS agents: Lessons from studies of chlorpyrifos and other common pesticides. Central Nervous System Agent In Medicinal Chemistry (CNSA-MC) 7: 183-199

  • Updated: February 6, 2006