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Yuanyuan (Rose) Rose Li

Assistant Professor

Assistant Professor

Nutrition & Food Science Skinner Building Suite 0119C College Park, MD 20742


  • Cancer Biology
  • Cancer Prevention
  • Gene-nutrient Regulation
  • Diet-related chronic disease prevention and management
  • Gut microbiome

Dr. Li’s research focuses on studying how bioactive nutrients or compounds in functional foods prevent chronic human diseases including cancer and metabolic disorders through regulation of epigenetic mechanisms and gut microbiome. Dr. Li is particularly interested in how nutrition and diet influence pregnant women’s health and reduce the risk of certain diseases in the babies later in life. Dr. Li strives to apply her research in human studies that eventually improves community health and benefits public welfare in the future.

Research Focus

  • Early-life dietary chemoprevention on breast cancer and metabolic disorders through gut microbiome and microbial metabolome.


  • Epigenetic regulations of bioactive nutrient compounds in cancer prevention and therapy.


  • Nutrition intervention on aging epigenetics.


  • Translational studies and clinical trial through nutrition intervention in humans.


M.D. Shanxi Medical College, China (Clinical Medicine)

M.S. Dalian Medical College, China (Pathology)

Ph.D. Peking Union Medical College, China (Oncology)


1. USDA NIFA Award (PI)                     01/01/2021-12/31/2025        

Effects of maternal soybean diet and early-life gut microbial development on long-term health consequences of the progenies                                                                                

2. NIH K01(PI)                                       03/01/2017-08/31/2022

Epigenetic mechanisms of maternal diets in human health and disease prevention

3. MU Tier 1 funding (PI)                       01/20/2021-06/20/2022     

Analysis the link of transcriptomic profiling changes in adipose tissues to maternal bioactive dietary compound-induced transgenerational obesity intervention                           

4. NIH/NIDDK NORC-Pilot/Feasibility Grant Program (PI)                        6/26/2017-05/30/2019

The epigenetic effects of maternal bioactive dietary compound on transgenerational weight control: a new approach to early obesity interference

5. NIH/NCI R03 (PI)                              092013-082016                          

Maternal epigenetic dietary effects on early breast cancer prevention

6. Junior Faculty Development Grant (UAB) 062011-052012               

Epigenetics of soybean genistein and broccoli sulforaphane in breasT cancer prevention

7. AICR Post-Doctoral Grant Award (PI)   012010-122011              

Epigenetics of genistein and/or soy isoflavone in breast cancer prevention


Recent Publications (*denotes corresponding author)

  1. Chen M., Li S., Arora I., Yi N., Sharma M., Li Z., Tollefsbol T.O., Li Y*. Maternal soybean diet on prevention of obesity-related breast cancer through early-life gut microbiome and epigenetic regulation. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2022, Aug 3;110:109119. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2022.109119.
  2. Arora I., Sharma M., Li S., Crowley M., Crossman D., Li Y*., Tollefsbol T.O. An integrated analysis of the effects of maternal broccoli sprouts on transcriptome and methylome in prevention of offspring breast cancer. PLoS ONE, 2022, 17(3):e0264858.
  3. Chen M., Li S., Srinivasasainagendra V., Sharma M., Li Z., Tiwari H., Tollefsbol T.O., Li Y*. Maternal soybean genistein on prevention of later-life breast cancer through inherited epigenetic regulations. Carcinogenesis, 2022,43(3):190-202.
  4. Sharma M, Arora I, Chen M, Wu H, Crowley M, Tollefsbol T.O., Li Y*, Therapeutic effects of dietary soybean genistein on triple-negative breast cancer via regulation of epigenetic mechanisms. Nutrients. 2021, 13, 3944.  Received Trygve Tollefsbol Best Paper Endowed Award in Biology and highlighted at the website of SNI Global and the United Soybean Board.
  5. Arora I, Li Y, Sharma M, Crowley M, Crossman D, Li S, Tollefsbol T.O., Systematic integrated analyses of methylomic and transcriptomic impacts of early combined botanicals on estrogen receptor-negative mammary cancer. Scientific Reports, 2021 May 4;11(1):9481.
  6. Li Y*. Advanced Epigenetics Methods in Biomedicine. Methods. Editorial 2021. doi: 10.1016/j.ymeth. 2021.01.010
  7. Sharma M, Arora I, Stoll M, Li Y, Morrow C, Barnes S, Berryhill T, Li S, Tollefsbol T.O., Nutritional combinatorial impact on the gut microbiota and plasma short-chain fatty acids levels in the prevention of mammary cancer in Her2/neu estrogen receptor-negative transgenic mice. PLoS one. 2020 Dec 31;15(12):e0234893.
  8. Li Y*. Modern Epigenetics Methods in Biological Research. Methods. 2020 Jul 6;S1046-2023(19)30346-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2020.06.022.
  9. Li S, Chen M, Wu H, Li Y*, Tollefsbol TO. Maternal Epigenetic Regulation Contributes to Prevention of Estrogen Receptor-negative Mammary Cancer with Broccoli Sprout Consumption. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2020 May;13(5):449-462. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207. Featured on the journal homepage.
  10. Sharma M, Li Y, Stoll ML, Tollefsbol TO. The Epigenetic Connection Between the Gut Microbiome in Obesity and Diabetes. Front Genet. 2020 Jan 15;10:1329. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2019.01329. Review.
  11. Li S, Chen M, Li Y*, Tollefsbol TO. Prenatal epigenetics diets play protective roles against environmental pollution. Clin Epigenetics. 2019 May 16;11(1):82. doi: 10.1186/s13148-019-0659-4. Review. Featured on the journal homepage and reported on BMC Blog.
  12. Li Y*. Epigenetic Mechanisms Link Maternal Diets and Gut Microbiome to Obesity in the Offspring. Frontier in Genetics. 2018, 9:342. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2018.00342.
  13. Li Y*., Buckhaults P., Li S., Tollefsbol T.O., Temporal efficacy of a sulforaphane-based broccoli sprout diet in prevention of breast cancer through modulation of epigenetic mechanisms. Cancer Prevention Research, 2018. pii: canprevres.0423.2017. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-17-0423. Featured in NIH electronic newsletter, Nutrition Frontiers. Only three publications per newsletter will be selected based on scientific merit, innovation and potential public health impact. Received various media reports including UAB eReporter, Daily news, Medical Press, Breast Cancer News et. al.
  14. Paul B., Li Y. and Tollefsbol T.O., Synergistic epigenetic effects of combinatorial genistein and sulforaphane in breast cancer inhibition, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2018, 19(6). pii: E1754. doi: 10.3390/ijms19061754.
  15. Paul B., Royston K, Li Y., et al., Impact of genistein on the gut microbiome of humanized mice and its role in breast tumor inhibition. PLoS one. 2017 Dec 21;12(12):e0189756. 
  16. Li Y*., Meeran S.M. and Tollefsbol T.O., Combinatorial bioactive botanicals re-sensitize tamoxifen treatment in ER-negative breast cancer via epigenetic reactivation of ERα expression. Scientific Reports, 7(1): 9345, 2017. Received various media reports including UAB eReporter, Alabama News Center, Birmingham Times, Newsweek, et. al. Ranked in the top 10 papers on oncology published by Scientific Reports in 2017.
  17. Li Y* and Tollefsbol T.O., Age-related epigenetic drift and phenotypic plasticity loss: Implications in prevention of age-related human diseases. Epigenomics, 8(12):1637-1651, 2016. 
  18. Li Y*., Buckhaults P., Cui X., Tollefsbol T.O., Combinatorial epigenetic mechanisms and efficacy of early breast cancer inhibition by nutritive botanicals. Epigenomics, 2016, Aug;8(8):1019-37.
  19. Li Y*., Saldanha S., Tollefsbol T.O., Epigenetic dietary compounds on transgenerational prevention of human diseases. AAPS Journal, 2014 Jan;16(1):27-36. Ranked “Top 1 article” in the area based on BioMedLib.
  20. Li Y*., Meeran S.M., Patel S.N., Chen H., Hardy T.M. and Tollefsbol T.O., Epigenetic reactivation of estrogen receptor-α (ERα) by genistein enhanced chemosensitivity in ERα-negative breast cancer. Molecular Cancer, 4;12(1):9 2013. Featured on site. MDLinx is the world's most up-to-date index of articles that matter in the daily lives of physicians and other healthcare professionals.