Geng-Lin Li

Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Massachusetts


Ph.D.: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Postdoctoral Training: Vollum Institute, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon

Synaptic Transmission in Sensory Systems

Dr. Li’s research focuses on how neural signals are conveyed from one neuron to another through synapses, a specialized structure between a pair of neurons. In particular, he is interested in synapses in sensory systems where the connectivity is more simplified and the information context is more clear. His research group takes a multidisciplinary approach combining electrophysiology, UV-light uncaging of caged compounds and two-photon imaging techniques, to address some fundamental questions of sensory information encoding and decoding.

One of his current projects takes advantage of a unique synapse between hair cells and auditory nerve fibers in bullfrog amphibian papilla. By making direct patch-clamp recordings on both sides of the synapse in vitro, he was able to stimulate the synapse in the same way as it receives from sound stimulation in vivo. In response to these stimulations, afferent fibers fire spikes showing phase-locking, a feature reminiscent of that found only in vivo. This allows him to study synaptic transmission in vivo with a preparation in vitro. His results suggest that under physiological conditions a few synaptic vesicles can be released from a single release site in a cooperated manner, and that the cooperated release can enhance the temporal precision of the synapse.

Representative publications:

Cho, S., Li, G.L., and von Gersdorff, H. 2011. Recovery from short-term depression and facilitation is ultrafast and Ca2+-dependent at auditory hair cell synapses. Journal of Neuroscience, 31: 5682-5692.

Li, G.L., Keen, E., Andor-Ardó, D., Hudspeth, A.J., and von Gersdorff, H. 2009. The unitary event underlying multiquantal EPSCs at a hair cell's ribbon synapse. Journal of Neuroscience, 29: 7558-7568.

Li, G.L., Vigh, J., and von Gersdorff, H. 2007. Short-term depression at the reciprocal synapses between a retinal bipolar cell terminal and amacrine cells. Journal of Neuroscience, 27: 7377-7385.

Hull, C., Li, G.L., and von Gersdorff, H. 2006. GABA transporters regulate a standing GABAC receptor-mediated current at a retinal presynaptic terminal. Journal of Neuroscience, 26: 6979-6984.

Vigh, J., Li, G.L., Hul,l C., and von Gersdorff, H. 2005. Long-term plasticity mediated by mGluR1 at a retinal reciprocal synapse. Neuron, 46: 469-482.

Li,G.L., and Yang, X.L. 2003. Glycinergic input to carp retinal ganglion cells may be mediated by glycine receptors with homologous kinetics. Brain Research, 991: 171-179.

Li, G.L., Li P., and Yang, X.L. 2001. Melatonin modulates gamma-aminobutyric acidA receptor-mediated currents on isolated carp retinal neurons. Neuroscience Letters, 301: 49-53.