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Last Name

Hong-Sheng Li PhD

TitleAssociate Professor
InstitutionUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School
AddressUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School
364 Plantation Street, LRB
Worcester MA 01605
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    InstitutionUMMS - School of Medicine

    InstitutionUMMS - School of Medicine
    DepartmentNeuroNexus Institute

    Collapse Biography 
    Collapse education and training
    Wuhan University, Wuhan, 42, ChinaBSMolecular Biology & Biochem
    NYU Shanghai Institute of Brain and Cognitive Science, Pudong, , ChinaPHDNeuroscience

    Collapse Overview 
    Collapse overview

    Academic Background


    B.Sc. with high honors in Biochemistry,

    Wuhan University, China


    Ph.D., Shanghai Brain Research Institute,

    Chinese Academy of Science, China


    Postdoctoral Fellow, Johns Hopkins University


    The Albert L. Lehninger Postdoctoral Fellow Award, Johns Hopkins University


    Molecular Dissection of Drosophila Vision

    We are using the Drosophila visual system as a genetic model to study molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying sensory functions.  By generating new fly mutants and characterizing visual phenotypes, we are investigating how photoreceptor neurons maintain their sensitivity to light and achieve rapid signaling, how visual signals are processed by interneurons, how visual glia support and modulate neuronal signaling, and how derailed signaling activities lead to neuronal degeneration in the eye.  Study on these topics will contribute to our understandings of sensory functions and neuron-glia interactions in general.  In addition, it will provide important insight to the pathology of retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration, two human retinal disorders due to loss of photoreceptor neurons.

    Using a combination of genetic, biochemical, electrophysiological, and imaging approaches, in addition to behavioral assays, we are currently focusing on the following two research directions.

    Multifaceted regulation of rhodopsin in fly photoreceptors

    The Drosophila visual transduction occurs in rhabdomere, a highly packed microvillar organelle in photoreceptor neurons.  Upon light-stimulated isomerization, rhodopsin triggers a trimeric Gq protein to activate phospholipase C, which leads to the open of transient-receptor-potential (TRP) channels and the depolarization of photoreceptor.  For response to repetitive stimuli, the visual transduction needs to be terminated promptly after each stimulus, which depends on deactivation of rhodopsin as well as closing of TRP channels.  Using new fly mutants, we have demonstrated that photoreceptors employ multiple mechanisms to regulate the signaling of rhodopsin, and that these regulations are important both for the speed of visual response and for the photoreceptor sensitivity to light. 

    In addition to the classic, arrestin-mediated regulation, fly rhodopsin is deactivated through a mechanism that depends on a Ca2+/calmodulin-stimulated transcription factor dCAMTA.  We have identified several target genes of dCAMTA, and found that overexpression of an F-box gene dFbxl4 rescued the mutant phenotype of dCAMTA.  We will continue to investigate whether Rh1 undergoes dFbxl4-dependent ubiquitination, and whether the ubiquitination is important for Rh1 deactivation.  We have also obtained a knockout (KO) mouse line for CAMTA1, the mammalian homologue of dCAMTA, and observed similar visual defects in homozygous KO mice based on electroretinogram recordings.  Importantly, the level of mouse Fbxl4 was reduced in CAMTA1 KO mice.  Thus, the visual function of dCAMTA could be conserved from fly to mammals. 

    Intriguingly, prompt deactivation of rhodopsin is also important for the maintenance of photoreceptor sensitivity.  In both dCAMTA mutant flies and a mutant lacking a visual arrestin Arr2, prolonged activation of Gq by rhodopsin triggered excessive endocytosis of the major rhodopsin Rh1 during light exposure, leading to reduced photoreceptor sensitivity to light.  In addition to the Rh1 deactivation, a CUB and LDLa domain protein (CULD) antagonizes Arr1-mediated Rh1 endocytosis for the maintenance of visual sensitivity.

    As in human retinitis pigmentosa, mutations of rhodopsin and its regulatory molecules are major causes of retinal degeneration in the fly.  We have identified multiple types of retinal degeneration in fly mutants:  in older dCAMTA and arr2 mutants, excessive endocytosis of rhodopsin led to vacuolar degeneration of photoreceptor in a Ca2+-dependent manner; in a tadr (torn and diminished rhabdomeres) mutant, stimulated Gq protein failed to dissociate from the membrane and caused rhabdomere-initiated photoreceptor degeneration. These degeneration processes could also occur in human retinal disorders.

    The importance of glia to visual signal transmission 

    In the first visual neuropil region (lamina), fly photoreceptor axons release histamine upon light stimulation to hyperpolarize projective secondary sensory neurons and laminar local neurons. We recent found that a gap junction-dependent multicellular glial network mediates a long-distance recycling pathway of histamine for sustained visual transmission and normal visual alert response.  More importantly, we found that two ion channels in glia, Irk2 and GluCl, are essential for visual transmission in the lamina. We are currently investigating how glia receive neuronal signals through these channels and how these glial ion channels facilitate the visual transmission between photoreceptors and laminar neurons.

    Collapse Rotation Projects

    Rotation projects

    Rotation students in the lab will have the following choices of research projects:

    1) Further characterize the dCAMTA/dFbxl4-mediate deactivation of rhodopsin and the morphological defects due to loss of this pathway.

    2) Participate in the characterization of additional mutant flies that have defective rhodopsin regulation, and investigate why abnormal rhodopsin signaling leads to retinal degeneration.

    3) Explore the functions of rhodopsin regulatory molecules in other receptor signaling cascades.

    4) Isolate new fly mutants with impaired GPCR signaling.

    Collapse Post Docs

    A postdoctoral position is available to study in this laboratory. Contact Dr. Li for additional details.

    Collapse Bibliographic 
    Collapse selected publications
    Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Faculty can login to make corrections and additions.
    List All   |   Timeline
    1. Chaturvedi R, Luan Z, Guo P, Li HS. Drosophila Vision Depends on Carcinine Uptake by an Organic Cation Transporter. Cell Rep. 2016 Mar 08; 14(9):2076-2083. PMID: 26923590; PMCID: PMC4785057.
    2. Luan Z, Quigley C, Li HS. The putative Na?/Cl?-dependent neurotransmitter/osmolyte transporter inebriated in the Drosophila hindgut is essential for the maintenance of systemic water homeostasis. Sci Rep. 2015 Jan 23; 5:7993. PMID: 25613130.
      View in: PubMed
    3. Luan Z, Reddig K, Li HS. Loss of Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase in Drosophila photoreceptors leads to blindness and age-dependent neurodegeneration. Exp Neurol. 2014 Nov; 261:791-801. PMID: 25205229.
      View in: PubMed
    4. Chaturvedi R, Reddig K, Li HS. Long-distance mechanism of neurotransmitter recycling mediated by glial network facilitates visual function in Drosophila. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Feb 18; 111(7):2812-7. PMID: 24550312.
      View in: PubMed
    5. Luan Z, Li HS. Inwardly rectifying potassium channels in Drosophila. Sheng Li Xue Bao. 2012 Oct 25; 64(5):515-9. PMID: 23090492.
      View in: PubMed
    6. Hu W, Wan D, Yu X, Cao J, Guo P, Li HS, Han J. Protein Gq modulates termination of phototransduction and prevents retinal degeneration. J Biol Chem. 2012 Apr 20; 287(17):13911-8. PMID: 22389492.
      View in: PubMed
    7. Cao J, Li Y, Xia W, Reddig K, Hu W, Xie W, Li HS, Han J. A Drosophila metallophosphoesterase mediates deglycosylation of rhodopsin. EMBO J. 2011 Jul 29; 30(18):3701-13. PMID: 21804530.
      View in: PubMed
    8. Venkatachalam K, Wasserman D, Wang X, Li R, Mills E, Elsaesser R, Li HS, Montell C. Dependence on a retinophilin/myosin complex for stability of PKC and INAD and termination of phototransduction. J Neurosci. 2010 Aug 25; 30(34):11337-45. PMID: 20739554.
      View in: PubMed
    9. Ni L, Guo P, Reddig K, Mitra M, Li HS. Mutation of a TADR protein leads to rhodopsin and Gq-dependent retinal degeneration in Drosophila. J Neurosci. 2008 Dec 10; 28(50):13478-87. PMID: 19074021.
      View in: PubMed
    10. Han J, Reddig K, Li HS. Prolonged G(q) activity triggers fly rhodopsin endocytosis and degradation, and reduces photoreceptor sensitivity. EMBO J. 2007 Dec 12; 26(24):4966-73. PMID: 18034157.
      View in: PubMed
    11. Gong P, Han J, Reddig K, Li HS. A potential dimerization region of dCAMTA is critical for termination of fly visual response. J Biol Chem. 2007 Jul 20; 282(29):21253-8. PMID: 17537720.
      View in: PubMed
    12. Han J, Gong P, Reddig K, Mitra M, Guo P, Li HS. The fly CAMTA transcription factor potentiates deactivation of rhodopsin, a G protein-coupled light receptor. Cell. 2006 Nov 17; 127(4):847-58. PMID: 17110341.
      View in: PubMed
    13. Xu H, Lee SJ, Suzuki E, Dugan KD, Stoddard A, Li HS, Chodosh LA, Montell C. A lysosomal tetraspanin associated with retinal degeneration identified via a genome-wide screen. EMBO J. 2004 Feb 25; 23(4):811-22. PMID: 14963491.
      View in: PubMed
    14. Ma HT, Venkatachalam K, Li HS, Montell C, Kurosaki T, Patterson RL, Gill DL. Assessment of the role of the inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor in the activation of transient receptor potential channels and store-operated Ca2+ entry channels. J Biol Chem. 2001 Jun 1; 276(22):18888-96. PMID: 11259416.
      View in: PubMed
    15. Li HS, Montell C. TRP and the PDZ protein, INAD, form the core complex required for retention of the signalplex in Drosophila photoreceptor cells. J Cell Biol. 2000 Sep 18; 150(6):1411-22. PMID: 10995445.
      View in: PubMed
    16. Li HS, Xu XZ, Montell C. Activation of a TRPC3-dependent cation current through the neurotrophin BDNF. Neuron. 1999 Sep; 24(1):261-73. PMID: 10677043.
      View in: PubMed
    17. Wes PD, Xu XZ, Li HS, Chien F, Doberstein SK, Montell C. Termination of phototransduction requires binding of the NINAC myosin III and the PDZ protein INAD. Nat Neurosci. 1999 May; 2(5):447-53. PMID: 10321249.
      View in: PubMed
    18. Li HS, Porter JA, Montell C. Requirement for the NINAC kinase/myosin for stable termination of the visual cascade. J Neurosci. 1998 Dec 1; 18(23):9601-6. PMID: 9822721.
      View in: PubMed
    19. Xu XZ, Wes PD, Chen H, Li HS, Yu M, Morgan S, Liu Y, Montell C. Retinal targets for calmodulin include proteins implicated in synaptic transmission. J Biol Chem. 1998 Nov 20; 273(47):31297-307. PMID: 9813038.
      View in: PubMed
    20. Li HS, Zhao ZQ. Small sensory neurons in the rat dorsal root ganglia express functional NK-1 tachykinin receptor. Eur J Neurosci. 1998 Apr; 10(4):1292-9. PMID: 9749783.
      View in: PubMed
    21. Xu XZ, Li HS, Guggino WB, Montell C. Coassembly of TRP and TRPL produces a distinct store-operated conductance. Cell. 1997 Jun 27; 89(7):1155-64. PMID: 9215637.
      View in: PubMed
    22. Li HS, Zhao ZQ. [Progress in the study of the molecular neurobiology of substance P]. Sheng Li Ke Xue Jin Zhan. 1994 Jan; 25(1):37-41. PMID: 7521061.
      View in: PubMed
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