Li Gan, PhD

Professor in Residence
Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease
+1 415 734-2524
Research Description: 

Dr. Gan studies the molecular mechanisms behind the loss of functional neurons in neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and Frontotemporal Dementia. Her lab explores the relationship between the aging of neural circuits, the accumulation of toxic proteins and the subsequent activation of a chronic inflammatory response. Understanding how these processes become dysfunctional in neurodegeneration could lead to new therapeutic strategies to tackle Alzheimer’s disease and Frontotemporal dementia.

One aspect of Dr. Gan’s research focuses on why toxic proteins accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer patients. Dr. Gan and her team discovered new cellular mechanisms that could lead to novel approaches to get rid of the toxic proteins from aging neurons. Dr. Gan’s research also explores stem cell-based regenerative approaches ?in Alzheimer’s disease—a promising yet highly challenging therapeutic direction. Her study showed that neural stem cells in the hippocampus of mice genetically modified to mimic Alzheimer’s symptoms develop abnormally and integrate poorly into the network of neural circuits. More importantly, Dr. Gan and her colleagues find that they can offset these deficits by manipulating electrical signals via pharmacological approaches. Their research provides important clues to encourage the development of new brain cells in those with Alzheimer’s disease.

At UCSF, Dr. Gan is active in graduate training and has joint appointments in the Neuroscience Graduate Program and the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program. She is also a member of several scientific and professional societies, including the Society for Neuroscience. Dr. Gan has served as a referee? for several government and private grant agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Alzheimer’s Association and the California Department of Health Services. She is also an ad hoc reviewer for numerous professional journals including Neuron, Nature Medicine, Journal of Neuroscience, and Journal of Cell Biology.

Dr. Gan received a bachelor’s degree in physiology from China’s Peking University and a PhD in cellular and molecular physiology from Yale University School of Medicine. Later, she did postdoctoral training at Yale University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and the Gladstone Institutes.

Primary Thematic Area: 
Secondary Thematic Area: 
Developmental & Stem Cell Biology
Research Summary: 
Molecular pathways in neurodegenerative diseases


Featured Publications: 

Acetylated Tau Obstructs KIBRA-Mediated Signaling in Synaptic Plasticity and Promotes Tauopathy-Related Memory Loss.


Tracy TE, Sohn PD, Minami SS, Wang C, Min SW, Li Y, Zhou Y, Le D, Lo I, Ponnusamy R, Cong X, Schilling B, Ellerby LM, Huganir RL, Gan L

Critical role of acetylation in tau-mediated neurodegeneration and cognitive deficits.

Nature medicine

Min SW, Chen X, Tracy TE, Li Y, Zhou Y, Wang C, Shirakawa K, Minami SS, Defensor E, Mok SA, Sohn PD, Schilling B, Cong X, Ellerby L, Gibson BW, Johnson J, Krogan N, Shamloo M, Gestwicki J, Masliah E, Verdin E, Gan L

SIRT1 deficiency in microglia contributes to cognitive decline in aging and neurodegeneration via epigenetic regulation of IL-1ß.

The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Cho SH, Chen JA, Sayed F, Ward ME, Gao F, Nguyen TA, Krabbe G, Sohn PD, Lo I, Minami S, Devidze N, Zhou Y, Coppola G, Gan L

Progranulin protects against amyloid ß deposition and toxicity in Alzheimer's disease mouse models.

Nature medicine

Minami SS, Min SW, Krabbe G, Wang C, Zhou Y, Asgarov R, Li Y, Martens LH, Elia LP, Ward ME, Mucke L, Farese RV, Gan L