Lina Ni

Assistant Professor

  • Postdoctoral Fellow in Neuroscience, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
  • Ph.D. in Neuroscience , University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA
  • B.A. in Biotechnology , Wuhan University, Wuhan, China

Her research focuses on understanding how sensory systems regulate behavior. During her PhD training, she identified two essential molecular regulators that are required to maintain Drosophila visual sensitivity. Her postdoctoral research focused on the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control temperature sensation. Her studies have discovered two new classes of molecular thermoreceptors and dissected the complex responses of flies to thermal gradients of different steepness.           

Animals continually confront environmental stimuli, some favorable and some unfavorable. To survive and reproduce, animals need to seek the favorable and to avoid the unfavorable stimuli. Animals use their sensory systems to accomplish this choice. Our lab focus on sensory transduction and is trying to address the following three questions: How do environmental stimuli activate the sensory receptors? How does the information from these receptors be processed in the brain? And how does the brain control behavior and physiology?

We use Drosophila thermosensory systems to address these questions, not only because of their fast and powerful molecular genetics, which permits easy manipulation of molecules and circuits, but also because of their thermosensory systems, which contain a relatively small number of receptor neurons yet govern robust behavioral responses. We combine a range of approaches, including molecular genetics, biochemistry, electrophysiology, calcium imaging and behavioral analyses.  

We have discovered two new classes of molecular thermoreceptors and dissected the complex responses of flies to thermal gradients of different steepness. These studies have provided new insights into the molecular and cellular bases of thermal sensing and set the stage for further mechanistic investigations of temperature sensing in fruit flies and in insect disease vectors, such as mosquitoes and ticks, which use thermal sensing to find warm-blooded hosts.

Currently, our lab focus on the following two projects:

1. Complete the molecular identification of ionotropic receptor (IR)-composed temperature receptors and investigate how IRs detect temperature.

2. Investigate how distinct thermal sensory systems work together to regulate physiology homeostasis.

Selected Publications

  • Knecht ZA*, Silbering AF*, Ni L*, Klein M*, Budelli G, Bell R, Abuin L, Ferrer AJ, Samuel AD, Benton R, Garrity PA. (2016). Distinct combinations of variant ionotropic glutamate receptors mediate thermosensation and hygrosensation in Drosophila. eLife. 17879. (*equal contribution)
  • Ni L*, Klein M*, Svec KV, Budelli G, Chang EC, Ferrer AJ, Benton R, Samuel AD, Garrity PA. (2016). The Ionotropic Receptors IR21a and IR25a mediate cool sensing in Drosophila. eLife. 5:e13254. (*equal contribution)
  • Ni L, Bronk P, Chang EC, Lowell AM, Flam JO, Panzano VC, Theobald DL, Griffith LC, Garrity PA. (2013). A gustatory receptor paralogue controls rapid warmth avoidance in Drosophila. Nature. 500(7464): 580-584.
  • Kang K, Panzano VC, Chang EC, Ni L, Dainis AM, Jenkins AM, Regna K, Muskavitch MA, Garrity PA. (2011). Modulation of TRPA1 thermal sensitivity enables sensory discrimination in Drosophila. Nature. 481(7379): 76-80.
  • Ni L, Guo P, Reddig K, Mitra M, Li HS. (2008). Mutation of a TADR protein leads to rhodopsin and Gq-dependent retinal degeneration in Drosophila. J.Neurosci. 28(50): 13478-13487.
  • Ye X, Ou J, Ni L, Shi W, Shen P. (2003). Characterization of a novel plasmid from extremely halophilic Archaea: nucleotide sequence and function analysis. FEMS microbiol lett. 221(1): 53-57.

For a full list of Dr. Ni's publications, visit PubMed

Biocomplexity Institute (BI) Room 284 (Lab). Blacksburg, VA 24061