Sonika Patial, DVM, PhD, DACVP is an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University, School of Veterinary Medicine. She earned her DVM and Ph.D. in Molecular Immunology from Michigan State University. Her doctoral research focused on understanding the modulation of inflammatory responses through G-protein coupled receptor kinases and the regulation of inflammation through the NFkB pathway. Following her PhD, she went on to do a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in the Laboratory of Signal Transduction under the mentorship of Dr. Perry Blackshear. Her postdoctoral work focused on understanding the role of RNA binding proteins (RBPs) of the zinc finger protein 36 (ZFP36) family in regulating inflammation and innate immune responses. Here, she developed and characterized a novel mouse model of endogenous ZFP36 overexpression through knock-in approach. Further, she demonstrated that increasing the levels of ZFP36, also known as tristetraprolin, protects mice against experimental inflammatory and immune-mediated conditions including arthritis, psoriasis, and autoimmune encephalomyelitis, among others. This work was published in PNAS and was selected as the Paper of the Year, 2016 by Environmental Factor, a leading NIEHS journal. Dr. Patial’s research is published in excellent peer-reviewed journals including PNAS, Cell metabolism, Trends Pharmacological Sciences, and The Journal of Immunology and has been cited over 1,500 times. During her postdoctoral training at NIEHS, she received numerous honors and awards including the NIH Fellows Award for Research Excellence and a best abstract award from the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Following her postdoctoral training, she went on to do a residency in Veterinary Anatomic Pathology at Louisiana State University. She is currently a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathology. She joined as an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University in 2017 and started her independent research laboratory.
Dr. Patial’s research program is focused on understanding the role of RBPs including ZFP36/tristetraprolin and other members of this protein family in regulating mammalian physiology and pathology. These proteins function by targeting the messenger RNAs that possess certain types of AU-rich elements within their 3’untranslated regions, for post-transcriptional degradation. Thus, the dysregulated expression of this family of proteins can potentially perturb the post-transcriptional regulation of hundreds of target mRNAs. She is particularly interested in understanding how this post-transcriptional regulatory mechanism contributes to lung and liver injury, inflammation, and fibrosis. In her recent work, her lab has shown that tristetraprolin is an endogenous anti-inflammatory protein and that increasing the levels of tristetraprolin, particularly in the non-hematopoietic cells within the lung, provides significant protection against acute lung injury in mice. In another study, her lab has found that ZFP36L1 protein post-transcriptionally regulates Fgf21 mRNA turnover and that liver-specific loss of ZFP36L1 increases FGF21 expression several fold in response to alcohol. FGF21 analogues have been developed for the treatment of metabolic conditions, however, the endogenous regulation of FGF21 production has remained unknown. This study provides a novel mechanism of regulation of FGF21 expression in the liver. Besides, the lab has generated several other cell-specific knockouts of this family of proteins to test their research questions. The ultimate goal of the research program is to discover novel ways of reducing inflammation, discovering new diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers of lung and liver disease, and validating new targets for therapeutic interventions. Her work is currently funded by the NIH and the Louisiana board of Regents.
She is also committed to teaching and mentoring the next generation of graduate students and post-doctoral trainees in the LSU, School of Veterinary Medicine. She is affiliated with the comparative biomedical sciences graduate program at LSU, School of Veterinary Medicine and serves as a recruiter for new graduate students. Besides, she is also passionate about teaching Veterinary Histology and Pathology to the budding veterinarians and clinician-scientists in the Veterinary curriculum, for which she has consistently received the Dean’s teacher merit honor roll awards (2018-2020). She is an active member of the American Society of Investigative Pathology (ASIP), the Society of Toxicology (SOT), the Society of Toxicologic Pathology (STP), the American College of Veterinary Pathology (ACVP), and the American Association of Immunology (AAI). She is the recipient of the 2020 ASIP Hans-Monga Faculty Scholar award.
She is an ASIP member and a recipient of the 2021 Monga-Hans Junior Faculty Scholar Award.