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Xin Zhiguo Li, Ph.D.

Contact Information

Phone Numbers

Office: (585) 275-6576

Fax: (585) 271-2683

Research Labs



Our lab studies epigenetic inheritance. DNA is not the only information carrier. Epigenetic information carried by RNA, DNA methylation, histone codes, or three-dimensional nuclear structures also affects individual phenotypes. These epigenetic markers change with age, lifestyle, and environmental exposure. The claim that acquired traits are heritable, known as "Lamarckian" inheritance, once discredited, has been resurrected by recent advances in our understanding of epigenetics. Plant small RNAs have been shown to provide the sequence specificity to establish and maintain epigenetic status across generations, the exact counterpart in animal has not been found. We strive to understand how various germ-line RNAs prepare and shape epigenetic information flowing across generations.

We are adopting an interdisciplinary approach that includes genetics, epigenetics, RNA biochemistry, reproductive biology, early embryology, and bioinformatics, and testing our findings across different model organisms including mammals and birds. Currently, our ongoing projects are centering on piRNA regulation in germ cells. Piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA) is a group of small non-coding RNAs that are highly expressed in the germ line and are essential for human fertility. In addition to piRNAs that protect the germ-line genome from transposon activation, mammals and avian produce a distinct and abundant set of non-repetitive piRNA sequences whose function is unknown. We want to understand: 1) how piRNAs are produced? 2) How do piRNA functions? 3) How are new piRNAs originated during evolution?



BS | China-Tsinghua University
Biological Science

PhD | Cornell University
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Journal Articles

Sun YH, Xie LH, Zhuo X, Chen Q, Ghoneim D, Zhang B, Jagne J, Yang C, Li XZ. "Domestic chickens activate a piRNA defense against avian leukosis virus." eLife.. 2017 Apr 6; 6Epub 2017 Apr 06.

Sharma U, Conine CC, Shea JM, Boskovic A, Derr AG, Bing XY, Belleannee C, Kucukural A, Serra RW, Sun F, Song L, Carone BR, Ricci EP, Li XZ, Fauquier L, Moore MJ, Sullivan R, Mello CC, Garber M, Rando OJ. "Biogenesis and function of tRNA fragments during sperm maturation and fertilization in mammals." Science.. 2016 Jan 22; 351(6271):391-396. Epub 2015 Dec 31.

Moran Y, Fredman D, Praher D, Li XZ, Wee LM, Rentzsch F, Zamore PD, Technau U, Seitz H. "Cnidarian microRNAs frequently regulate targets by cleavage." Genome research.. 2014 Apr; 24(4):651-63. Epub 2014 Mar 18.