Li Li Ji, PhD


Director, School of Kinesiology
Professor and Director, Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene and Exercise Science

Areas of Interest

Biochemical and molecular exercise physiology, nutrition and aging

School of Kinesiology

Room 110A CookeH
1900 University Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Tel: 612-624-9809

Fax: 612-624-2509


  • Ph.D., 1985, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • M.S., 1982, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • B.S., 1976, East China Normal University

Research statement
The balance of free radicals and antioxidants plays a critical role in life. Reactive oxygen and nitrogen intermediates are generated from normal cellular processes as well as in certain pathological states, which could fulfill essential biological functions but also elicit serious threat to health. Numerous diseases are now identified to be related to oxidative stress caused by insufficient antioxidant defense. A central paradigm of my research is to study how this delicate balance could be affected by rigorous physical activity, during aging and in some diseases. There is strong evidence that moderate levels of exercise combined with proper nutrition are essential for health and longevity. I have been fortunate to be able to conduct research in this exciting field of biological science during the past 25 years. Moving my laboratory to the University of Minnesota opens new opportunities and I am looking forward to working together with graduate and undergraduate students and collaborating with faculty and researchers across campus.

Exercise and Nutrition Are Medicine 
Strenuous exercise is associated with increased oxygen consumption and free radical production. Tissues actively involved in exercise, such as skeletal muscle, liver and heart, are exposed to an increased oxidative challenge. Yet, serious damages to these tissue due to exercise are rare because organisms are capable of adapting to elevated levels of free radicals by increasing antioxidant defense. In fact, some reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (such as hydrogen peroxide and nitric oxide) can serve as signaling molecules to active the adaptive processes. Nutrition serves a critical role in this paradigm as deficiency of essential antioxidant nutrients renders the body to high risks of oxidative damage, whereas supplementation of certain antioxidants offer increased protection. However, overload of exogenous antioxidants could backfire by offsetting natural adaptive response and removing exercise benefits. Selective supplementation of a broad spectrum of phytochemicals has proven to be a smart way to enhance antioxidant protection while avoiding depletion of “good” reactive species.

Free Radicals, Antioxidants and Aging
There is strong evidence that aging is caused by free radical reaction with the cellular components of human body throughout the life. Increased free radical generation and subsequent modification of the macromolecules underlie many age-related degenerated problems such as sarcopenia, Alzheimer diseases, cardiopulmonary disorders and cancer. One of my strong interests is to seek physiological and nutritional strategies that could enhance antioxidant defense and prevent age-related health deterioration. We use both animal and human subjects to study mechanisms causing these problems and to explore strategies to benefit older people. We emphasize regular physical activity that has been shown to enhance antioxidant defense and maintenance of proper nutritional intake throughout the life span.

Selected Publications

  1. Koenig, R., J. R. Dickman, C. Kang, T. Zhang, Y-F. Chu, L. L. J. 1Avenanthramide Supplementation Attenuates Exercise-induced Inflammation in Postmenopausal Women. Nutrition J. (in review)

  2. Koenig, R, J. Dickman, C. Kang, and L. L. Ji. Avenathranmide Supplementation Attenuate Eccentric Exercise-induced Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Young Women. J. Am. Coll. Nutr. (in review)

  3. Ji, L. L. and Y. Zhang. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of exercise: role of redox signaling. Free Rad. Res. 2013, ISSN 1071-5762 print/USSB 1029-2470 online.

  4. Kang, C. and L. L. Ji. Overexpression of PGC-1a stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis and ameliorates recover from muscle disuse atrophy. J. Appl. Physiol. 115: 000-000, 2013.

  5. Kang, C., E. Chung, and L. L. Ji. Exercise training stimulates PGC-1 and mitochondrial biogenic pathway in skeletal muscle of aged rats. Exp. Gerontol. 48: 1343-1350, 2013.

  6. Bo H, Jiang N, Ji LL, Zhang Y. Mitochondrial Redox Metabolism in Aging: Effect of Exercise Interventions. J. Sport Health Sci. 2:67-74, 2013.

  7. Ji, L. L. Healthy aging: Cellular insights. J. Sport Health Sci. 2:65-66, 2013.

  8. Kang C, L. L. Ji. Role of PGC-1a in muscle function and aging: Review. J. Sport Health Sci. 2:81-86, 2013.

  9. Feng, H., C. Kang, J. R. Dickman, R. Koenig, Awoyinka, Y. Zhang and L. L. Ji. Training-induced mitochondrial adaptation: role of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor ? coactivator-1a, nuclear factor-?B and ß-blockade. Exp. Physiol. 98:784-95, 2013.

  10. Sakurai T, O. Kashimura, Y. Kano, H. Ohno, T.Izawa, L. L. Ji, T. M. Best. Role of nitric oxide in muscle regeneration following eccentric muscle contractions in rat skeletal muscle. J. Physiol. Sci. 63:263-270, 2013.

  11. Zhao, J, Y. Tian, J. Cao, L. Jin, L. L. Ji. Mechanism of endurance training-induced erythrocyte deformability in rats involves erythropoiesis. Clin. Hemorheol. Microcirc. 53: 257-66, 2013.

  12. Bo H, Wang X, Chen QY, Ji LL, Zhang Y. Effect of exercise on mitochondrial ROS generation during sattlelite cell differentiation in senescent skeletal muscle. Chin. J. Sport Med. 31:475-482, 2012.

  13. Kang, C and L. L. Ji. Role of PGC-1a Signaling in Skeletal Muscle Health and Disease. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1271:110-7, 2012.

  14. Bolling, B. W., L. L. Ji, C-H. Lee, and K. L. Parkin. Dietary supplementation of ferulic acid and 1 ferulic acid ethyl ester induces quinone reductase and glutathione-S-transferase in rats. Food Chem. 124: 1-6, 2011.

  15. Liu T, Zhang M, Xu D, Liu SS, Ji LL, Zhang Y. Exercise training enhances mitochondrial biogenesis and cardiac remodeling in rats with heart failure induced by myocardial infarction. Chin. J. Sports Med. 30: 260-2662, 2011.

  16. Finley, J.W., Kong, A.N., Hintze, K.J., Jeffery, E.H., Ji, Li L., Lei, X.G. Antioxidants in the food supply: The current state of the science and the need for the food industry to update its message to the public. J. Agr. Food Chem. 59:6837-46, 2011.

  17. Koenig, R., J. Dickman and L. L. Ji. Avenanthramides are Bioavailable and Accumulate in Hepatic, Cardiac, and Skeletal Muscle Tissue following Oral Gavage in Rats. J. Agr. Food Chem. 59:6438-43, 2011.

  18. Han YM, Liu ZQ, Chang YX, Liu SS, Ji LL, Zhang Y. Effect of Aerobic Endurance Training on Mitochondrial Biogenesis of Skeletal Muscle in Aging Rats. Chin. J. Sports Med. 29: 425-429, 2010.

  19. Bo H, Y. Zhang, L.L. Ji. Redefining the Role of Mitochondria in Exercise: a Dynamic Remodeling. Ann. N. Y. Aca. Sci. 1201: 121-128, 2010.

  20. Liao P, J. P. Zhou, L. L. Ji. and Y. Zhang, Lengthening Contraction Induced Inflammatory Responses in Rat Skeletal Muscle: Role of Tumor Necrosis Factor-a. Am. J. Physiol.(Reg. Integr. Comp. Physiol.) 298: R599-607, 2010.

  21. Ji, L. L. , J. R. Dickman, C. Kang, and R. Koenig. Exercise-induced Hormesis may help healthy aging. Dose-Response 28: 73-79, 2010.

  22. Ding H,, N. Jiang, H. Liu, X. Liu, D. Liu, F. Zhao, L. Wen, S. Liu , L. L. Ji, Yong, Zhang. Dynamic Response of mitochondrial fusion and fission protein gene expression to exercise in rat dkeletal muscle. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1800: 250-256, 2010.

  23. Ji, L. L. and Zhang, Y. Antioxidant signaling in skeletal muscle. In Muscle Plasticity-Advances in Biochemical and Physiological Research. (Editor. J. Magalhaes and Antonio Ascensão). Research Signpost, p. 95-120, 2009.

  24. Dickman, J. R., R.T. Koenig, and L. L. Ji. American ginseng supplementation induces a mild oxidative stress in elderly women. J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 28:219-228, 2009.

  25. Kang C., K. M. O’Moore, J. R. Dickman and L. L. Ji. Exercise activation of muscle peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-? coactivator-1a signaling is redox sensitive. Free Rad. Biol. Med. 47: 1394-1400, 2009.

  26. Ji, L. L. M-C. Gomez-Cabrera, and J. Vina. Role of Antioxidants in Muscle Health and Pathology. Infectious Disorders Special Issue. Infect. Disord. Drug Targets 9(4):428-444, 2009.

  27. Jiang, N.; Zhang, G.; Bo, H.; Qu, J.; Ma, Cao.; D, Wen, L.; Liu, S.; Ji, L.L.; Zhang, Y. Upregulation of uncoupling protein-3 in skeletal muscle during exercise: a potential antioxidant function. Free Rad Biol Med 46:138-145, 2009

  28. Jiang, N.; Zhang, G.; Bo, H.; Qu, J.; Ma, Cao.; D, Wen, L.; Liu, S.; Ji, L.L.; Zhang, Y.Upregulation of uncoupling protein-3 in skeletal muscle during exercise: a potential antioxidant function. Free Rad Biol Med 46:138-145, 2009.

  29. Ji, L. L. and R. Koenig. Oat antioxidant. In Nutrigenomics and Proteomics in Health and Disease. (Ed. Y. Mine). CRC-Taylor & Francis, New York. P. 239-249, 2008.

  30. Ji, L. L. Z. Radak, and S. Goto. Exercise and hormesis: How the Cell Copes with Oxidative Stress. Am. J. Pharmacol. Toxicol. 3 (1): 41-55, 2008.

  31. Bo, H., N. Jiang, G. Ma, J. Qu, G. Zhang, D. Cao, L. Wen, S. Liu, L. L. Ji, and Y. Zhang. Regulation of mitochondrial uncoupling respiration during exercise in rat heart: role of ROS and uncoupling protein-2. Free Rad. Biol. Med. 44: 1373–1381, 2008.

  32. Ji, L. L. Modulation of skeletal muscle antioxidant defense by exercise: role of redox signaling. Free Rad. Biol. Med. 44: 142-152, 2008.

  33. Ji, L. L. Physical Activity: A Strong Stimulant for Hormesis during Aging. In Mild Stress and Healthy Aging: Applying Hormesis. Ed. Eric. Le Bourg and Suresh Rattan. SPI Publishing, p. 97-114, 2007.

  34. Ji, L. L., M.C. Gomez-Cabrera and J. Vina. Role of nuclear factor ?B and mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling in exercise-induced antioxidant enzyme adaptation. Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metabol. 5:930-935, 2007.

  35. Larraín, R. E., M. P. Richards, D. M. Schaefer, L. L. Ji,  and J. D. Reed. Growth performance and muscle oxidation in rats fed increasing amounts of high-tannin sorghum. J. Animal Sci. 85:3276-3284, 2007.

  36. Ji, L. L. Antioxidant signaling in skeletal muscle: a brief review. Exp. Gerontol. 42: 582-593, 2007.

  37. Ji, L. L. Oxidative Stress and Antioxidant defenses: effects of aging and exercise. In: Oxidative stress, Exercise and Aging. (Ed. H. M. Allesio and A. E. Hagerman). Imperial College Press, London. P. 85-109, 2006.

  38. Ji, L. L., M-C. Gomez-Cabrera and J. Vina.  Exercise and hormesis: Activation of cellular signaling pathways. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 1067:425-435, 2006.

  39. Lee, C-H., M. Wettasinghe, B. W. Bolling, L. L. Ji and K. Parkin. Betalains as markers for highly-enriched phase II enzyme-inducing components from red beetroot (Beta vulgaris L.) extracts. Nutr. Cancer 53:91-103, 2005.

  40. Sakurai T, J. Hollander, S. Brickson, T. Izawa, H. Ohno, L. L. Ji, and T. M. Best. Changes in nitric oxide and inducible nitric oxide synthase following stretch-induced injury to the tibialis anterio muscle of rabbit. Japan J. Physiol. 55: 101-107, 2005

  41. Gomez-Cabrera, M-C, C. Borras, G. Santangelo, F.V. Pallardó , J. Sastre, L. L. Ji  and J. Vina. Decreasing xanthine oxidase mediated oxidative stress prevents useful cellular adatptations to exercise in rats.  J. Physiol. (London) 567:113-120, 2005.

  42. Ji, L. L., M-C. Gomez-Cabrera, N. Steinhafel, and J. Vina.  Acute Exercise Activates Nuclear Factor (NF) kB Signaling Pathway in Rat Skeletal Muscle. FASEB J. 18:1499-1506, 2004.

  43. Ji, L. L and D. Perterson. Aging, Exercise and Phytochemicals: Promises and Pitfalls. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1019: 453-461, 2004.

  44. Ji, L. L. Free radicals and heart ischemia-reperfusion injury. In: Exercise and Diseases (Ed. Z. Radak) Human Kinetics Publisher, Champaign, IL. p. 110-132, 2004.

  45. Gopalakrishnan, A. L. L. Ji  and C. Cirelli. Effect of sleep deprivation on markers of oxidative stress and cellular damage.  Sleep 27: 27-35, 2004

  46. Recent Book Chapters

  47. Ji, L. Li. Oxidative Stress Response Pathways: Role of Redox Signaling. In: Hormesis in Human Health and Disease (S. Rattan and E. LeBourg, Eds.). CRC Press, 2013.

  48. Powers, S. K., L. L. Ji, A.Kavazis, and M. J. Jackson. Reactive oxygen species: impact on skeletal muscle. In Physiology Handbook (ed. K. Baldwin) (in press)

  49. Gomez-Cabrera, M. C., F.Sanchis-Gomar, V. E. Martinez-Bello, S. Ibanez-Sania, A. L. Nascimento, L. L. Ji and J. Vina. Exercise as a model to study oxidative stress. In Oxidative Stress in Basic Research and Clinical Practice-Experimental Models (Eds. Samar Basu and Lars Wiklund). Human Press/Springer Science, Uppsala, Sweden (in press)

  50. Ji, L. L. Antioxidant Signaling: Role of Mitochondria. In Systems Biology of Free Radicals and Anti-Oxidants (Ed. Laher I). Springer-Verlag, Germany 195:1-22, 2013.

  51. Recent Invited Lectures

  52. On physiological and pathological responses of skeletal muscle to contractile activity and inactivity. Keynote speaker. Chinese Physiological Society annual conference. Guangzhou, China. November 8, 2013.

  53. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of cell redox signaling. Invited keynote speaker. 5th International Council for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (ICHPERD). Dubai, United Arab Emirates. September 20, 2013.

  54. Avenanthramides reduce exercise-induced inflammation. Invited speaker. 4th International Conference on Nutrition and Physical Activity in Aging, Obesity and Cancer (NAPA). Pattaya, Thailand. August 16, 2013.

  55. Oat phytochemicals: fundamentals, application and health effects. Invited speaker. International Food Technology (IFT) conference. Chicago, USA. July 12, 2013.

  56. PGC-1α over-expression attenuates mitochondrial disorder and inflammation in muscle disuse atrophy. Invited speaker. 5th International Symposium on Nutrition and Biology of Medicine (ISONBM). Paris, France. June 6, 2013.

  57. PGC-1α over-expression attenuates mitochondrial disorder and inflammatory response in muscle disuse atrophy. Invited seminar speaker for Muscular Dystrophy Center. University of Minnesota Twin Cities. May 24, 2013.

  58. Antioxidant and anti-inflammation during exercise and performance. Invited speaker. Chinese National Coach Clinic. Shanghai, China. November 8, 2012.

  59. PGC-1α Over-Expression Attenuates Mitochondrial Disorder and Inflammatory Response in Muscle Disuse Atrophy. Invited speaker. Joint Asia and China Mitochondria and Medicine Conference. Beijing, China. November 4, 2012.

  60. Exercise is medicine: Role of PGC-1α. Invited keynote speaker. Society of Chinese Scholars of Exercise Physiology and Fitness conference. Shanghai, China. November 3, 2012.

  61. Exercise is medicine: Signaling and adaptation. Invited speaker for the Saturday Scholar. College of Education and Human Development. Oct. 20, 2012.

  62. How does an American University train graduate students? Invited speaker. Tianjin University of Sport. Tianjin, China. July 7, 2012.

  63. Role of PGC-1 in muscle mitochondrial biogenesis and function. Mitochondrial International Conference. Xian, China. April 4-5, 2011.

  64. Role of PGC-1α in skeletal muscle health and disease. Invited speaker. 3rd International Conference for Nutrition, Aging and Physical Activity. Seoul, South Korea. March 17, 2012.

  65. Exercise is the best medicine: Signaling and adaptations. Invited colloquium at University of Minnesota Center for Aging. October 26, 2011.

  66. Phytochemical application in health and disease. Chinese Military Medical Academy, Environmental Physiology Research Institute. Tianjin, China. July 26, 2011.

  67. Exercise is antioxidant: Adaptation, Signaling and Impact. Invited speaker. International Food Technology (IFT) Conference. New Orleans. June 15, 2011.

  68. Oat: a promising antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemical. 2nd Nutrition, Aging and Physical Activity international conference. February 17, 2011. Gyeongju, South Korea.

  69. Exercise-induced cell signaling: Implication in sport training. Beijing University of Sports, China. November 22, 2010.

  70. Antioxidant adaptation and signaling in response to physical exercise: Invited speaker, symposium New Perspectives on Antioxidants. American Chemical Society annual conference, Boston, August 25, 2010.

  71. Management of a Kinesiology Department: a UW-Madison Model. Tianjin Sports University. June 9, 2010.

  72. Mitochondria: do you know enough about this ancient organelle? Symposium chair and speaker, American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) meeting. Baltimore, June 3, 2010.

  73. Physical activity and metabolic control: an old topic with new insight. Beijing International Forum on Physical Activity and Sports Medicine. Beijing University of Sports, China. December 22, 2009.

  74. Free radical and sports medicine: from theory to practice. Invited speech. Shanghai International Sport Medicine Research Forum. Shanghai, China. December 20, 2009.

  75. Physical exercise: a critical component for successful aging. Invited speech at the 3rd International Conference of Nutrition and Physical Activity in Aging, Obesity and Cancer. Jeju, Korea. December 16, 2009.

  76. Refining the role of mitochondria in exercise: a dynamic remodeling. Invited speech at the 3^rd International Conference of Mitochondrial Medicine. Wenzhou, China. August 4, 2009.

  77. Antioxidant defense in mitochondria. Organizer and speaker. ACSM symposium on Mitochondria. Seattle, WA. May 22, 2009.

  78. How mitochondrial protect against oxidative stress during exercise. Invited Speaker, International conference on Nutrition, Oxygen Biology and Medicine. Paris, France. April 8-10, 2009.

  79. Muscle Antioxidant Adaptation Controlled by Redox-sensitive Signal Transduction. Invited speaker. international symposium on Aging and Exercise. Juntendo University, Japan, January 31, 2009.

  80. The Molecular biology basis for training adaptation: role of cell signaling. Invited speaker, 2008 Beijing Olympic Science Conference, Guangzhou, August 3, 2008.

  81. The cell finds fire: Utility of free radicals in exercise adaptation. American Chemical Society Chicago Chapter. April 17, 2008.

  82. Exercise-induced signaling and adaptation of antioxidant systems. Loyola University Medical School. Oct. 3, 2007.

  83. Antioxidant signaling. Invited symposium speaker, American College of Sports Medicine meeting. New Olean. May 30, 2007.

  84. Role of mitochondria in muscle adaptation to exercise. Invited lecture. International Mitochondrial Conference. Wenzhow, China, Nov. 4-6, 2006.

  85. Free radicals as cell signaling agents. Invited speaker. International Biochemistry of Exercise Symposium. Soul, Korea. October 22, 2006.

  86. Antioxidant supplementation for health and performance. Invited lecture. Taiwan Society of Exercise Physiology. Taipei, Taiwan, December 19, 2005.

  87. Free radical-antioxidant homeostasis in the mitochondria: Role of MnSOD. Invited lecture. Mitochondria in Health and Disease Conference. Chinese Academy of Science,. Beijing, September 27, 2005.

  88. Exercise and hormesis: role of NF?B in antioxidant signaling. Symposium organizer and speaker. 11th International Biomedical Gerontology Conference Aarhus University in Denmark, August 13-16 2005.

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