Guan Xue Li

Guan Xue Li (Custom).jpg

Nanyang Assistant Professor Guan Xue Li
Principal Investigator, Systems Biology of Lipid Metabolism in Human Health and Diseases Laboratory
Laboratory Staff
  • Teng Ooiean, PhD, Research Fellow
  • Gordon Irvine, Research Fellow
  • Deborah Seow, Scientific Officer


Lab Website

Assistant Professor Guan Xue Li is an Assistant Professor in Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, and an awardee of the 2016 Nanyang Assistant Professorship.  Asst Prof Guan obtained her PhD from the National University of Singapore in 2009. She was a recipient of an EMBO short term fellowship during her PhD to work in University of Geneva, and further pursued her postdoctoral training in systems biology within a consortium, LipidX, in Switzerland. In 2011, she secured the competitive Ambizione career grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation and became a Group Leader of Lipidomics and Systems Biology in Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH).

Asst Prof Guan is internationally recognised for her contributions in pioneering novel lipidomics approaches for systems biology studies of lipid metabolism and functions. From model organisms, she has translated her works on lipidomics and systems biology to medically relevant systems. She is interested in driving technological developments to capture the complex lipid metabolic networks and to undertake a multidisciplinary approach to address the functional roles of lipids in human health and diseases, as well as to identify novel drug targets and biomarkers for infectious diseases including tuberculosis and other mycobacteriosis, and parasitic infections. She served as the vice-coordinator of a RTD consortium, TbX - Systems Biology of Drug Resistant Tuberculosis in the Field. The present Guan group in NTU is actively collaborating with local research institutions and healthcare groups, as well as international academic and industry partners.

Asst Prof Guan has published over 20 articles related to the relatively young but growing field of lipidomics in peer-reviewed journals, two book chapters, and is a co-inventor of a patent on “System level scale analysis of lipids as a diagnostic tool”.

Research Focus

Infectious diseases continue to threaten global health and economy, and pose a challenge to health systems, in part due to the poor predictability of constantly evolving infectious agents and the complexity of pathogenesis as a result of the interplay between the networks of at least two organisms, namely the host and the pathogen. It is increasingly evident that lipids play essential roles at the different stages of an infection, including pathogen docking, invasion, intracellular trafficking, membrane biogenesis and energy storage. From a therapeutic perspective, the importance of lipid metabolism in pathogens has long been recognised, as variations in the lipid repertoire and enzymatic machineries found in different organisms make targeting microbial lipid metabolism a highly attractive approach for disease intervention. 
Despite the appreciation of lipid functions in human health and diseases, many gaps remain to be filled. Asst Prof Guan’s laboratory is interested in the roles of lipid metabolism in infectious diseases, and the association with metabolic diseases. Their research is guided by the central hypothesis that in the context of an infection, both host and microbial lipids, which occur in bewildering chemical diversity, act collectively, in time and space, during invasion and persistence in the human host. Taking a modular systems biology approach, involving the development of novel lipidomics tools and interfacing with other disciplines including genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, classical cell and molecular biology and epidemiology, the research aims at scrutinising the impact of host metabolic status as well as heterogeneity in microbial population on outcomes of infections and treatments. Specifically, the laboratory will address the contribution of lipids towards the dual disease burden inflicted by diabetes and tuberculosis as well as emergence of drug resistance. A second aim of the Guan Group’s research is to develop novel tools for next-generation lipidomics to create a new knowledge-base of the ‘lipid codes’ of medically relevant systems including humans and a spectrum of disease-causing pathogens (e.g. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and parasites). Together, the new insights in biology and the biochemical resources generated will contribute to modern medicine, particularly in drug target and biomarker discovery. 

Key Publications
  1. Crick PJ and Guan XL# (2016). Lipidomics – novel tools for studying mycobacterial lipid metabolism and functions. BBA-Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids. 1861(1):60-67. # Correspondence.
  2. Fügi M, Kaiser M, Tanner M, Schneiter R, Mäser P, Guan XL# (2015). Match-making for Posaconazole through systems-thinking. Trends in Parasitology. # Correspondence. 31(2):46-51.)
  3. Portevin D, Sukumar S, Coscolla M, Shui G, Li B, Guan XL, Bendt AK, Young D. Gagneux S, Wenk MR (2014). Lipidomics and genomics of M. tuberculosis reveal lineage-specific trends in mycolic acid biosynthesis. Microbiology Open. 3(6):823-835.
  4. Tanner LB, Chng C, Guan XL, Lei Z, Rozen SG. Wenk MR (2014). Lipidomics identifies a requirement of host cell choline lipid metabolism for influenza virus replication. Journal of Lipid Research. 55(7):1357-1365.
  5. Fügi M, Gunasekera K, Ochsenreiter T, Guan XL, Wenk MR, Mäser P (2014). Genome profiling of sterol synthesis shows convergent evolution in parasites and guides chemotherapeutic attack. Journal of Lipid Research. 55(5):929-938.
  6. Hadidi N, Soh KC, Pedarsani P, Seijo M, Guan XL, Wenk MR, Hatzimanikatis V (2014). NICELips: A computational framework for reconstructing lipid metabolism. Metabolic Engineering.  23:1-8.
  7. Guan XL#, Cestra G, Shui G, Kuhrs A, Schittenhelm RB, Hafen E, van der Goot FG, Robinett CC, Gatti M, Gonzalez-Gaitan M, Wenk MR (2013). Lipidomics of Drosophila melanogaster during development. Developmental Cell. 24(1): 98-111. # Co-correspondence. 
  8. Zhang Q, Hunk C, Yau Y, Seow V, Lee S, Tanner LB, Guan XL, Wenk MR, Chew P, Kukkaro P, Biukovic, Shi P, Shochat SG, Grüber, G, Lok S (2012). The stem region of premembrane protein plays an important role in the virus surface protein rearrangement during dengue maturation. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 287(48):40525-40534.
  9. Young BP, Shin JJH, Orij R, Chao JT, Li SC, Guan XL, Khong A, Jan E, Wenk MR, Prinz WA, Smits GJ, Loewen CJR (2010). Phosphatidic acid is a pH biosensor that links membrane biogenesis to metabolism. Science. 329(5995):1085-8.
  10. Guan XL, Souza CM, Pichler H, Dewhurst G, Schaad O, Kajiwara K, Wakabayashi H, Ivanova T, Castillon GA, Piccolis M, Abe F, Loewith R, Funato K, Wenk MR and Riezman H (2009). Functional interactions between sphingolipids and sterols regulating cell physiology. Mol. Biol. Cell. 20(7):2083-95. * Awarded MBC paper of the year, 2009. ** Featured as ‘MBoC 20th Anniversary Favourite’, 2012.