Genetics, Development and Cell Biology > Faculty & Research > Adjunct, Affiliate, and Courtesy Joint Faculty > Ling Li

Ling Li

Adjunct Assistant Professor 

Research Description

Dr. Li has been developing an integrated experimental/biocomputational approach to identify the factors that regulate plant metabolism, with an emphasis on soybean seed composition and starch metabolism. Her research has focused on expanding the fundamental understanding of biological networks, in particular those that shift metabolism and thus alter composition. Her research strategy integrates systems-based experimental data (such as transcriptomic, metabolomic and proteomic data, protein-protein interaction, genomic sequences, and 3D structural information etc), to reveal the entirety of processes that makeup a biological network. The integration of such comprehensive datasets with genetic manipulations and bioinformatic analysis is revealing the structure and regulation of complex molecular interaction networks, which impact metabolic and signaling processes. This integrated strategy is identifying new gene functions and identifying innovative strategies on how to improve the performance of biological systems and solve problems in agriculture. One example of her research on the characterization of the Arabidopsis-specific QQS orphan gene and its interactor in regulation of carbon and nitrogen allocation illustrates this strategy, and provides a prototype of how to improve biological traits (developing a molecular tool to increase protein content in agronomic species), and how fundamental biotechnological research could bridge basic and applied research.

Contact Information

443 Bessey Hall
Ames, IA 50011-1020
515-294-6236 voice
515-294-1337 fax


B.S., Peking University, Beijing, P.R.China, 1997
M.S., Peking University, Beijing, P.R.China, 2000
Ph.D., Iowa State University, 2006


  • Li L, Wurtele ES (2012) Materials and methods for modifying a biochemical component in a plant. United States Patent Application #20120222167.


  • Jones D, Zheng W, Huang S, Zhao X, Du C, Yennamalli RM, Sen TZ, Nettleton D, Wurtele ES, and Li L* (2016) A clade-specific Arabidopsis gene connects primary metabolism and senescence. Frontiers in Plant Science, 7: 983 (*corresponding author).
  • Soták M, Czeranková O, Klein D, Jurčacková Z, Li L and Čellárová E (2016) Comparative transcriptome reconstruction of four Hypericum species focused on hypericin biosynthesis. Frontiers in Plant Science, 7: 1039.
  • Soták M, Czeranková O, Klein D, Nigutová K, Altschmied L, Li L, Jose A, Wurtele ES, and Čellárová E (2016) Differentially expressed genes in hypericin-containing hypericum perforatum leaf tissues as revealed by de novo assembly of RNA-Seq. Plant Molecular Biology Reporter, doi:10.1007/s11105-016-0982-2.
  • Li 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* (2015) The QQS orphan gene regulates carbon and nitrogen partitioning across species via NF-YC interactions. PNAS, 112: 14734-14739 (Faculty of 1000 Recommendation, doi: 10.3410/f.725926590.793512579; Paper of the month in TAIR for Feb 2016) (*corresponding authors).
  • Li L*, and Wurtele ES* (2015) The QQS orphan gene of Arabidopsis modulates carbon allocation in soybean. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 13: 177-187 (*corresponding authors).
  • Li L*, Hur M, Lee J, Zhou WX, Song Z, Ransom N, Demirkale Y, Nettleton D, Westgate M, Arendsee Z, Iyer V, Shanks J, Nikolau BJ, and Wurtele ES* (2015) A systems biology approach toward understanding seed composition in soybean. BMC Genomics, doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-16-S3-S9 (*corresponding authors).
  • Jiang F, An C, Bao Y, Zhao X, Jernigan R, Lithio A, Nettleton D, Li L, Wurtele E, Nolan L, Lu C, and Li G (2015) ArcA Controls Metabolism, Chemotaxis and Motility Contributing to the Pathogenicity of Avian Pathogenic E. coli. Infection and Immunity, 83: 3545-3554.
  • Arendsee Z, Li L*, and Wurtele ES* (2014) Coming of age: The species-specific (orphan) genes of plant. Trends in Plant Science, doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2014.07.003 (*corresponding authors).
  • Hur M, Cambell AA, Almeida-de-Macedo M, Li L, Ransom N, Jose A, Crispin M, Nikolau BJ, Wurtele ES (2013) A global approach to analysis and interpretation of metabolic data for plant natural product discovery. Natural Product Reports, 30: 565-583.
  • Zhang L, Berleant D, Wang Y, Li L, Cook D and Wurtele ES (2012) BirdsEyeView: graphical overviews of experimental data. BMC Bioinformatics, 13: S11.
  • Ngaki MN, Louie GV., Philippe RN, Manning G, Pojer F, Bowman ME, Li L, Larsen E, Wurtele ES and Noel JP (2012) Evolution of the chalcone isomerase fold from fatty acid-binding to stereospecific enzyme. Nature, 485: 530–533.
  • Feng YP, Hurst J, Almeida-De-Macedo M, Chen X, Li L, Ransom N, and Wurtele ES (2012) A massive human co-expression-network and its medical applications. Chemistry & Biodiversity, 9: 868-887.
  • Li X, Ilarslan H, Brachova L, Qian HR, Li L, Che P, Wurtele ES, and Nikolau BJ (2011) Reverse genetic analysis of the two biotin-containing subunit genes of the heteromeric acetyl-CoA carboxylase in Arabidopsis thaliana indicates a unidirectional functional redundancy. Plant Physiol., 155: 293-314.
  • Jia M, Li L, BoggessE, Wurtele ES, Dickerson JA (2010) Visualizing multivariate hierarchic data using enhanced radial space-filling layout. In: Advances in Visual Computing. Volume 6453. Berlin / Heidelberg: Springer, 350-360. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-17289-2_34.
  • Li L, Foster C, Gan Q, Nettleton D, James MG, Myers AM, and Wurtele ES (2009) Identification of the novel protein QQS as a component of the starch metabolic network in Arabidopsis leaves. Plant Journal, 58: 485-498.
  • Li L, Ilarslan H, James MG, Myers AM, and Wurtele ES (2007) Genome wide co-expression among the starch debranching enzyme genes AtISA1, AtISA2, and AtISA3 in Arabidopsis thaliana. J Exp Bot 58:3323-3342.
  • Wurtele ES, Li L, Berleant D, Cook D, Dickerson JA, Ding J, Hofmann H, Lawrence M, Lee EK, Li J, Mentzen W, Miller L, Nikolau BJ, Ransom N, and Wang Y (2007) MetNet: Systems Biology Software for Arabidopsis. In: Nikolau BJ and Wurtele ES, eds. Concepts in Plant Metabolomics. Chapter 10.
    Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 145-158.
  • Dickerson JA, Berleant D, Du P, Ding J, Foster CM, Li L, and Wurtele ES (2004) Creating, modeling and visualizing metabolic networks. In: Hsinchun Chen, Sherrilynne S Fuller, Carol Friedman, and William Hersh, eds. Medical informatics: knowledge management and data mining in biomedicine. Chapter 17. New York: Springer, 491-518.
  • Li L, Ji C, and You R (2001) Ultrastructural studies on megasporogenesis in Triticum aestivum L.. Acta Scientiarum Naturalium Universitatis Pekinensis, 37: 444-453.