Liang Li

B.Sc., Hangzhou University
M.A., San Diego State University
Ph.D., University of Michigan

Office: W3-39, Chemistry Centre
Phone: (780) 492-3250

Group Web Page:


Dr. Li's research is in the area of analytical mass spectrometry (MS). The major objectives of the research are to develop advanced methods and strategies, primarily based on MS, for the detection and characterization of biological molecules including peptides, proteins, and metabolites, and to apply these methods to study real-world biological systems. The latter is being accomplished through active collaboration with researchers at the forefront of their disciplines.

For students who are interested in Analytical Chemistry, Dr. Li's lab provides a good learning environment for state-of-the-art analytical techniques and methods, including biological and pharmaceutical sample handling methods, chemical separation techniques (e.g., multi-dimensional liquid chromatography), mass spectrometers (e.g., TOF MS, Ion trap MS, FT-MS, and tandem MS), and data processing/bioinformatics tools.

For students with strong biology background (e.g., an undergraduate degree in biological sciences or biochemistry) who are interested in Chemical Biology, Dr. Li's group offers the unique opportunity for training in both chemistry and biology, with the assistance of collaborators in biosciences such as faculty members in Biological Sciences, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Oncology, and Computational Biology. Joint supervision of a chemical biology research project can also be arranged. We are particularly interested in applying analytical techniques and methods in solving biological problems. These include investigation of protein complexes and their functions, characterization of protein-protein and protein-ligand interactions, and study of post-translational modifications of proteins and their roles in determining biological functions.

The current research activities in Dr. Li's group include the following major projects:

  • Development of analytical methods based on matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) and electrospray ionization (ESI) MS for proteome and metabolome analysis. The goals of this work are 1) to generate accurate and comprehensive proteome and metabolome maps, 2) to quantify the proteome and metabolome changes with high speed, and 3) to carry out in-depth analysis of a sub-proteome such as characterization of protein posttranslational modifications.
  • Development of nanoscale biological macromolecule manipulation and preparation methods for MS. The aim of this work is to improve mass spectrometric detection sensitivity and specificity for characterizing low abundance proteome and analyzing very small sizes of samples such as the primary cells procured from a tissue or a single cell.
  • Development and applications of proteomics and metabolomics approaches in cancer biology, cancer biomarker discovery, and pharmaceutical drug development.
  • Development of mass spectrometric techniques for rapid and accurate bacteria identification.

Selected Publications

in Analytical Chemistry:

J. Bryce Young and Liang Li, "Impulse-Driven Heated-Droplet Deposition Interface for Capillary and Microbore LC-MALDI MS and MS/MS", Anal. Chem. 2007, 79, 5927-5934.

Nan Wang, Lauren MacKenzie, Andrea G. De Souza, Hongying Zhong, Greg Goss and Liang Li, "Proteome Profile of Cytosolic Component of Zebrafish Liver Generated by LC-ESI MS/MS Combined with Trypsin Digestion and Microwave-Assisted Acid Hydrolysis", J. Proteome Res., 2007, 6, 263-272.

Nan Zhang, Rui Chen, Nelson Young, David Wishart, Philip Winter, Joel H. Weiner and Liang Li, "Comparison of SDS- and Methanol-Assisted Protein Solubilization and Digestion Methods for Escherichia coli Membrane Proteome Analysis by 2D-LC-MS/MS", Proteomics, 2007, 7, 484-493.

Mulu Gebremedhin, Hongying Zhong, Shaohua Wang, Michael Weinfeld and Liang Li, "Benefit of Microwave-Assisted Acid Hydrolysis of Proteins for Mass Spectrometric Profiling of the Human Heart Tissue Proteome", Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 2007, 21, 2779-2783.

Kevin Guo, Chengjie Ji and Liang Li, "Stable-Isotope Dimethylation Labeling Combined with LC-ESI MS for Quantification of Amine-containing Metabolites in Biological Samples", Anal. Chem. 2007 (in press).

in Chemical Biology:

Mackenzie E. Malo, Liang Li and Larry Fliegel, "Mitogen-activated protein kinase-dependent activation of the Na+/H+ exchanger is mediated through phosphorylation of amino acids Ser770 and Ser771", J. Bio. Chem., 2007, 282, 6292-6299.

Joel H. Weiner and Liang Li, "Proteome of the Escherichia coli Envelope and Technological Challenges in Membrane Proteome Analysis", Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Biomembranes 2007 (in press).