Katia Del Rio-Tsonis


244 Pearson Hall  (513) 529-3128

Biographical Information

Katia Del Rio-Tsonis has concentrated her recent research efforts in the understanding of the cellular and molecular events that take place during tissue regeneration, more specifically in the process of retina and lens regeneration. Several animal models are used in her lab including the embryonic chick and amphibians such as newts and frogs.

Some adult salamanders have the remarkable ability of regenerating the entire lens and retina after removal. This is achieved by the dedifferentiation of the iris pigment epithelial cells (IPEC) and of the retinal pigmented epithelial cells (RPEC), respectively. These cells lose their pigments and transdifferentiate to either lens cells or retina cells. This transition from one adult cell type to another is unique and involves specific regulation at the gene level. In vivo, this ability for transdifferentiation and regeneration is restricted to some adult salamanders and several embryonic animals. However, PEC from many other adult animals, including humans, do retain the capacity for transdifferentiation when isolated and cultured in vitro.

The embryonic chick is one of the preferred models to study retina regeneration, as it is able to regenerate its retina within a very short period of time, not only by transdifferentiation of RPEC, but also via the activation of stem/progenitor cells present in the anterior region of the eye. Using both animal models, the focus is to determine the mechanism of transdifferentiation and regeneration by dissecting important molecules (transcriptional factors, injury signals, secreted factors, miRNAs), signaling pathways and epigenetic regulators.

The overall goal is to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in the process of regeneration from the terminally differentiated pigment epithelial cells or retinal stem cells to the newly formed lens and retina. This will provide important information for the understanding of the development of such tissues and also could provide possible tools for future therapies for the already existing diseases of the eye that affect the lens (cataracts) and the retina (retina degenerative diseases such as Cone-Rod Dystrophy, Best Disease, Stargardt Disease, Diabetic retinopathy, and Age related macular degeneration).

Recent Publications

Haynes T, Luz-Madrigal A, Reis ES, Echeverri Ruiz NP, Grajales-Esquivel E, Tzekou A, Tsonis PA, Lambris JD, Del Rio-Tsonis K. Complement anaphylatoxin C3a is a Potent Inducer of Embryonic Chick Retina Regeneration. Nat Commun. 4: 2312, 2013.

Suetsugu-Maki R, Maki N, Nakamura K, Sumanas S, Zhu J, Del Rio-Tsonis K and Tsonis PA. Lens regeneration in axolotl: new evidence of developmental plasticity. BMC Biology 10(1):103, 2012.

Tsonis PA, Haynes T, Maki N, Casco-Robles MM, Yamada S, Miura T, Chiba C and Del Rio-Tsonis K. Controlling gene loss of function in newts with emphasis on lens regeneration. Nature Protocols 6(5): 593-9, 2011.

Vergara MN and Del Rio-Tsonis K. Retinal regeneration in the Xenopus laevis tadpole: a new model system. Mol. Vis. 15:1000-10013, 2009.

Haynes, T, Gutierrez, C, Aycinena, JC, Tsonis, PA and Del Rio-Tsonis, K. BMP signaling mediates stem/progenitor cell induced neural retina regeneration. PNAS 104(51):20380-5, 2007.