The Li l ab focuses on membrane proteins in cholesterol biogenesis, transport, and signaling using multiple approaches from protein engineering, to x-ray crystallography and cryo-EM. In order to reveal the principle of cholesterol metabolism in cells, the lab is currently focusing on several membrane proteins that contain a Sterol-Sensing Domain (SSD) (e.g. Niemann-Pick C1, HMG-CoA reductase, Patched, and Dispatched). The SSD concept was proposed by the Brown and Goldstein lab in 1996. Proteins with an SSD play indispensable roles in cholesterol metabolism and signal transduction.
The lab is also interested in the molecular mechanism of sterol-substrate recognition and delivery by membrane enzymes in the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway. Mutations on its proteins of interest can lead to serious health risks such as human inborn errors and cancers. The Li lab’s research aims to increase its knowledge of these proteins in the cholesterol pathway in order to facilitate further development of treatments for related diseases.