Mengfan Xu


I obtained my MSc in Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds in 2020, then started my PhD at the University of Leeds in October 2021. 

My PhD project focuses on the biological function and clinical significance of liver X receptor (LXR) alpha and beta and their splice variants. The hypothesis is that LXR splice variants are broadly present in LXR-related diseases and LXR-expressing tissues, and that LXR splice variants play diverse roles in human diseases.

Research interests

LXRs are key modulators of cholesterol homeostasis. It has been reported that LXRs are associated with a range of common diseases, including cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity. Splicing of LXR pre-mRNA generates several LXR splice transcripts and isoforms that extend the functions of LXRs.

Although the prognostic value of LXR splice variants has been demonstrated in triple negative breast cancer in previous work, the function and clinical significance of LXR splice variants remain unknown in most LXR-related diseases and LXR-expressing tissues.

These questions are being addressed through a range of in vitro experimental methods, structure-function analyses, and database mining.

The project requires the use of a panel of cancer cell lines and uses immunoblotting and PCR to detect LXR splice variants across different cancer types and subtypes. Techniques such as siRNA-mediated gene knockdown and transfection of plasmids containing the different splice variants are being performed to reveal the biological function of individual splice variants on cancer-specific signalling pathways.

Clinical samples will be analysed to assess whether the variants have prognostic potential that extend the group’s previous findings that LXR splice variants are prognostic in some breast cancer subtypes.


  • MSc Food Science and Nutrition, University of Leeds