Li Zhang

Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Systems Biology Science
Professor - Biological Sciences
Tags: Microbiology Molecular Biology Cell Biology Biology Genomics, Systems and Computational Biology Pathobiology

Professional Preparation

Postdoc - Molecular Genetics & Molecular Biology
MIT - 1995
Ph.D. - Biochemistry
University of California, Los Angeles - 1990
B.S. - Chemistry
Zhongshan University, China - 1984

Research Areas

Research Interests

Dr. Li Zhang has made major contributions to understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying heme signaling in eukaryotic cells. Heme is central to oxygen sensing and utilization in virtually all living organisms. In mammals, heme is critical for erythroid, hepatic, and neuronal functions. Oxygen sensing is directly related to many fundamental physiological and pathological processes, including angiogenesis, tumor development, and ischemia. Investigating the molecular mechanism of oxygen sensing and heme signaling is the main objective of Dr. Zhang2s lab. Furthermore, Dr. Zhang's lab is interested in investigating the molecular mechanisms by which common neurotoxicants act in neural cells, because studies of neurotoxicants should facilitate the understanding of many neural functions and neurological diseases. Dr. Zhang2s lab combines approaches of molecular and cellular biology with genomics and computational approaches to elucidate the global molecular mechanisms underlying cellular responses to environmental stressors, including hypoxia and environmental toxicants.

Dr. Zhang recently joined the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology as Professor and Head, coming from Columbia University, where she was professor of Environmental Health Sciences. Dr. Zhang also holds the Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Systems Biology Science.


Oxygen-enhanced optoacoustic tomography reveals the effectiveness of targeting heme and oxidative phosphorylation at normalizing tumor vascular oxygenation 2020 - Journal Article
Mitochondria Targeting as an Effective Strategy for Cancer Therapy 2020 - Journal Article
Heme, A Metabolic Sensor, Directly Regulates the Activity of the KDM4 Histone Demethylase Family and Their Interactions with Partner Proteins. 2020 - Journal Article
Elevated Heme Synthesis and Uptake Underpin Intensified Oxidative Metabolism and Tumorigenic Functions in Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer Cells 2019 - Journal Article
Cyclopamine tartrate, a modulator of hedgehog signaling and mitochondrial respiration, effectively arrests lung tumor growth and progression 2019 - Journal Article
Amyloid β perturbs elevated heme flux induced with neuronal development 2019 - Journal Article
Elevated Heme Synthesis and Uptake Underpin Intensified Oxidative Metabolism and Tumorigenic Functions in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Cells. 2019 - Journal Article
Rock the nucleus: significantly enhanced nuclear membrane permeability and gene transfection by plasmonic nanobubble induced nanomechanical transduction 2018 - Journal Article
Essential roles of mitochondrial and heme function in lung cancer bioenergetics and tumorigenesis 2018 - Journal Article
Experimental Methods for Studying Cellular Heme Signaling 2018 - Journal Article


Professor and Head
University of Texas at Dallas [2007–Present]
Associate Professor
Columbia University [2004–2004]
Columbia University [2004–2007]
Associate Professor
New York University [2001–2003]
Assistant Professor
New York University [1995–2000]
Postdoctoral Fellow/Associate
MIT [1991–1995]
Graduate Student Researcher
University of California, Los Angeles [1986–1990]

Additional Information

  • 1985-1986  P.R. China Fellowship;
  • 1985-1990  UCLA Non-resident Tuition Fellowship;
  • 1991-1993  The Jane Coffin Childs Fellowship for Medical Research;
  • 1999-2003  The Monique Weill-Caulier Medical Scholarship;
  • 2006  Top 1% of cited authors for journals in Molecular Biology and Genectics & Madison Whos Who;
  • 2007-          The Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair of Systems Biology

News Articles

Biologists Book Explores Role of Key Blood Component
Heme is the iron-containing molecule in hemoglobin that gives blood its deep red hue and binds to oxygen, allowing for its distribution throughout the body. “The field has progressed significantly throughout the last decade,” Zhang said. “It’s something I’ve studied for years now, and I thought it was the right time to work on this project.” Throughout her more than 15-year career, Zhang has made significant contributions to the field of molecular biology—particularly in the study of heme signaling and its role in tumor development, shortage of blood supply to tissues in the body and defective heme synthesis.
UT Dallas Study Suggests New Approach to Fighting Lung Cancer
Recent research has shown that cancer cells have a much different – and more complex – metabolism than normal cells. Now, scientists at The University of Texas at Dallas have found that exploiting these differences might provide a new strategy to combat lung cancer.

In an article published online May 21 in the journal PLOS ONE, UT Dallas researchers compared the metabolic characteristics of “non-small-cell” lung cancer cells with normal lung cells taken from the same patient.
Health Science Researcher to Head UT Dallas’ Department of Molecular & Cell Biology
The University of Texas at Dallas has appointed a noted Columbia University professor of environmental health sciences to lead the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology

Dr. Li Zhang will also hold the Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Systems Biology Science.  She starts work Nov. 1.
Zhang will succeed Dr. Donald Gray, who has headed the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology for three years and previously from 1985 to1995. 
University Biologists Design New Molecules To Help Stall Lung Cancer
University of Texas at Dallas scientists have demonstrated that the growth rate of the majority of lung cancer cells relates directly to the availability of a crucial oxygen-metabolizing molecule.

In a preclinical study, recently published in Cancer Research, biologist Dr. Li Zhang and her team showed that the expansion of lung tumors in mice slowed when access to heme — the oxygen-binding molecule in hemoglobin — was restricted. The researchers also showed that those same cancers grew faster when more heme was available than normal.


Learning from graph-structured data: new algorithms for modeling physical interactions in cellular networks.
- [2007–2010]
An oxygen sensing network involving heme and chaperones
- [2002–2009]