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Mari Kono, Ph.D.

Photo of Mari Kono
Scientific Focus Areas: Genetics and Genomics, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Neuroscience, Immunology

Professional Experience

  • Staff Scientist, NIDDK, NIH, 2020–present
  • Researcher, NIDDK, NIH, 2006–2020
  • Research fellow, NIDDK, NIH, 1999–2006
  • Research fellow, Frontier Research Program, The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), Japan, 1995–1999
  • Ph.D., Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Japan, 1992
  • D.V.M., M.S., Graduate School of Veterinary Science, Azabu University, Kanagawa, Japan, 1987
  • B.A., School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, Kanagawa, Japan, 1985

Research Goal

My research goal is to understand the role of sphingolipid metabolism and signaling in physiology and diseases and to improve the methods to treat genetic disorders of sphingolipid metabolism.

Current Research

Sphingolipids are essential components of cell membrane and its metabolite sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) functions as a signaling molecule through G-protein coupled receptors of S1P (S1PR1-5). Cells constantly maintain the sphingolipid levels by a series of metabolic chemical reactions. Aberrant sphingolipid metabolism and signaling cause various diseases and developmental abnormalities and there is no cure at present.

As research tools, I create mouse and cultured cell models of sphingolipid metabolic disorders and reporter system that enables detecting S1PR activation. Genetically engineered models allow us to dissect the role of sphingolipid metabolism and signaling.

Gene therapy is a promising treatment for hereditary diseases. I aim to correct genetic mutation in disease mouse models by gene therapies and improve the method to treat sphingolipid metabolic disorders.

Select Publications

SARS-CoV-2 ORF3a expression in brain disrupts the autophagy-lysosomal pathway, impairs sphingolipid homeostasis, and drives neuropathogenesis.
Zhu H, Byrnes C, Lee YT, Tuymetova G, Duffy HBD, Bakir JY, Pettit SN, Angina J, Springer DA, Allende ML, Kono M, Proia RL.
FASEB J (2023 May) 37:e22919. Abstract/Full Text
Visualizing Sphingosine-1-Phosphate Receptor 1(S1P(1)) Signaling During Central Nervous System De- and Remyelination.
Hashemi E, Yoseph E, Tsai HC, Moreno M, Yeh LH, Mehta SB, Kono M, Proia R, Han MH.
Cell Mol Neurobiol (2023 Apr) 43:1219-1236. Abstract/Full Text
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Research in Plain Language

My research focuses on understanding the function of sphingolipid metabolism and signaling in normal and disease conditions by using genetically engineered model mice and cells. We also use these models to devise methods to treat sphingolipid metabolic disorders.

Last Reviewed August 2023