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Xu Li

Associate Professor, Plant Metabolic Pathway Engineer

Plants for Human Health Institute


Area(s) of Expertise

Plant Metabolic Pathway Engineer

Dr. Xu “Sirius” Li’s research interests focus on plant secondary metabolism. Plants can produce a large array of diverse specialized metabolites, many of which are known to have beneficial effects on human health. Understanding how these compounds are made and accumulated in plants will enable us to produce crops, vegetables and fruits for enhanced health-promoting properties.

Dr. Li is working to identify novel plant secondary metabolites and to discover the genes and pathways for the biosynthesis of these compounds using natural accessions of Arabidopsis thaliana. This research will not only advance our understanding of plant secondary metabolism in the model plant Arabidopsis, but will also lead to the development of an integrated metabolomics, genetics and genomics discovery platform that can be applied to gain insight in the biochemical pathways and gene networks involved in the accumulation of bioactive compounds in crops, vegetables and fruits.

Metabolic engineering of secondary metabolism holds great promise for plant improvement; however, perturbation of some pathway leads to a detrimental effect on plant growth and development. Another research area of Dr. Li’s is to elucidate the mechanism that underlies such an effect. The knowledge gained from this research is essential to achieve specific metabolic engineering goals while minimizing the negative impact on plant fitness.

Watch a video introduction of Dr. Li and his research.


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Ph.D., Biochemistry, Purdue University (2005)
M.S., Plant Physiology, Peking University, Bejing, China (2000)
B.S., Plant Molecular and Developmental Biology, Peking University, Bejing, China (1997)