Chien Li

Li, Chien

Primary Appointment

Associate Professor, Pharmacology


  • BS, Biology, Tunghai University
  • MS, Biology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • PhD, Neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh
  • PhD, Physiology/Pharmacology, Oregon Health Sciences University

Contact Information

Box 800735
1340 Jefferson Park Ave., Jordan Hall, Room 5030B
Charlottesville, VA 22908
Telephone: 434-982-6752
Fax: 434-982-3878

Research Disciplines

Metabolism, Molecular Pharmacology, Neuroscience, Physiology

Research Interests

Neuroendocrine regulation of energy balance and stress, regulation of pancreatic islet hormone secretion and glucose homeostasis

Research Description

The ability to cope with stress is an essential survival mechanism in animals. My laboratory is interested in understanding the effects of stress on energy homeostasis and the implications in the development of metabolic-endocrine disorders such as obesity and type II diabetes. Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) family peptides and their receptors (CRFR1 and CRFR2) are key mediators of stress response and we are focusing on their role in the brain and peripheral tissues in regulating appetite and glucose homeostasis. We employ transgenic mice combined with viral gene delivery to elucidate the neurocricuits of CRF family in the brain and use conditional, neuron-specific gene targeting methods to determine the functional importance of the neurocircuits in controlling feeding and body weight. In addition to the central nervous system, CRF peptides play an important role in regulating insulin secretion from pancreatic b cells and insulin function in skeletal muscle cells. We use a number of gene targeting approaches including BAC transgenesis, cell type specific knockouts, and in vitro islet culture to explore the functional role of CRF peptides in modulating glucose homeostasis.

At the molecular level, we are investigating signaling mechanisms and molecular targets in cells mediating the effects of CRF peptides. Currently we have been focusing on vesicular nucleotide transporter (VNUT) as a downstream molecular mediator underlying the effects of stress peptides. Our study has suggested that VNUT plays an essential role in maintaining cellular energy homeostasis. We employ multiple approaches including gene targeting, viral gene delivery, RNA interference and primary tissue culture to determine the functional role of VNUT in regulating energy balance in cells. These studies will contribute to understanding the underlying mechanisms of stress on energy balance and have implications in the management of eating disorders, obesity and diabetes.

We are always looking for talented, highly motivated and productive undergraduate students, potential graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. Please email CV and inquires about currently available positions.

Selected Publications