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Aihua Li, MD

Associate Professor of Molecular and Systems Biology

Molecular and Systems Biology

MD, Nanjing Medical College

Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine

Contact Information:

Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
HB 7700
Lebanon NH 03756

Office: Borwell 738
Phone: 6036507725
Fax: 6036506130
Email: ahli@dartmouth.edu

Professional Interests:

Dr. Li is interested in autonomic control of cardio-respiratory functions in health and diseases. The current research is focus on the role of central chemoreceptors in hypothalamus and brainstem in the regulation of breathing, blood pressure, sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) in normal and hypertensive rodents in wakefulness and sleep.
The neurons in central chemoreceptor sites involved in the control of breathing can also affect blood pressure and may contribute to the development of some forms of hypertension. We focus on chemosensitive neurons in three sites: 1) Orexin neurons in the lateral hypothalamus (LHA); 2) Phox2b-expressing neurons in the retrotrapezoid nucleus (RTN); 3) Serotonin (5-HT) neurons in the medullary raphe (MR).
Utilizing viral vectors, SiRNA/shRNA, transgenic and pharmacological methods in both normal and hypertensive animals we study: 1) the role of central chemoreceptor (CCR) sites in central chemoreflex, blood pressure and sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) in both normal rodents and neurogenic hypertensive rats in wakefulness and sleep, 2) the role of central chemoreceptors in development of overactive SNA and high blood pressure in neurogenic hypertension in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs), 3) the role of hypothalamic neuropeptides, e.g. orexin, melanin Concentrating Hormone (MCH), in determine central chemoreflex, sleep disorders and neurogenic hypertension.

Rotations and Thesis Projects:

The role of the hypothalamic neurons (orexin, MCH and LepRb) in central chemoreception, blood pressure and sympathetic regulation, and neurogenic hypertension.

Grant Information:

NIH/NHLBI: NHL RO1 HL28066, on “Central Chemoreception” (PI/MPIs).
NIH/HD: HD 36379, program project on “Ventral Medulla and SIDS” (Co-investigator).

Selected Publications:


  • Li A, Nattie E. Orexin, cardio-respiratory function, and hypertension. Front Neurosci. 2014 Feb 12;8:22. (view details on MedLine)

  • Li A, Hindmarch CC, Nattie EE, Paton JF. Antagonism of orexin receptors significantly lowers blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats. J Physiol. 2013;591(Pt 23):6117. (view details on MedLine)

  • Li N, Nattie E, Li A. The Role of Melanin Concentrating Hormone (MCH) in the Central Chemoreflex: A Knockdown Study by siRNA in the Lateral Hypothalamus in Rats. PLoS One. 2014 Aug 1;9(8):e103585. doi: 10.1371 (view details on MedLine)

  • Nattie E, Li A. Respiration and autonomic regulation and orexin. Prog Brain Res. 2012;198:25-46. (view details on MedLine)

  • Li A, Nattie E. Antagonism of rat orexin receptors by almorexant attenuates central chemoreception in wakefulness in the active period of the diurnal cycle. J Physiol. 2010, 588:2935-44. (view details on MedLine)

  • Marina N, Abdala AP, Trapp S, Li A, Nattie EE, Hewinson J, Smith JC, Paton JF, Gourine AV. Essential role of Phox2b-expressing ventrolateral brainstem neurons in the chemosensory control of inspiration and expiration. J Neurosci. 2010 30(37):12466-73. (view details on MedLine)

  • Li A, Emond L, Nattie E. Brainstem catecholaminergic neurons modulate both respiratory and cardiovascular function. Adv Exp Med Biol, 2008;605:371-6. (view details on MedLine)

  • Cummings KJ, Commons KG, Trachtenberg FL, Li A, Kinney HC, Nattie EE. Caffeine improves the ability of serotonin-deficient (Pet-1-/-) mice to survive episodic asphyxia. Pediatr Res. 2013 Jan;73(1):38-45. (view details on MedLine)