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Leonardo Valdivia

Post doc
020 3549 5514 (t)

2011 - present: Post Doctoral research associate in the group of Professor Steve Wilson, at University College London (London, UK)

2006 - 2011: Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology under the supervision of Dr Miguel Allende at the University of Chile (Santiago,Chile). In my thesis I was focused on identifying essential genes for lateral line system formation in the zebrafish. In particular I isolated and characterised mutants affecting the development of this system.

2001 - 2004: Bachelor in Biological Sciences at the University of Chile (Santiago,Chile).

Research interests

My current project is focused on understanding the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying stem cell maintenance and differentiation in the postembryonic retina of zebrafish.

During vertebrate eye development, the precise coordination of cell proliferation, differentiation and death ensures proper formation of the repertoire of neurons in the retina. At the onset of neuronal differentiation, multipotent progenitor cells begin to exit the cell cycle to acquire postmitotic fates sequentially, with retinal ganglion cells born first, and photoreceptors and glial cells last.

Studies in fish and frog have shown that the ciliary marginal zone (CMZ) of the retina harbors a stem cell niche, which fuels the production of new neurons and allows the lifelong growth of the organ. The spatial layout of the CMZ recapitulates the developmental history of embryonic retinal neurons with the least determined cells in the peripheral CMZ, the proliferative retinoblasts in the middle region, and the differentiating cells closest to the central retina.

Currently, little is known about how retinal stem cells transit from a self-renewal/proliferation to a cell cycle exit/differentiation state, and how intrinsic and extrinsic signals in the CMZ are orchestrated to achieve this goal. In order to dissect this developmental dynamic I am using both forward and reverse genetics approaches. I am currently studying two eye mutants isolated from a genetic screen performed in our lab, and using customized nucleases to induce new mutations at specific locus in the zebrafish genome. These approaches will provide tools to understand the mechanisms driving cells from stemness to differentiation.


Leonardo E. Valdivia, Dayna B. Lamb, Wilson Horner, Claudia Wierzbicki, Amanuel Tafessu, Audrey M. Williams, Gaia Gestri, Anna M. Krasnow, Terra S. Vleeshouwer-Neumann, McKenzie Givens, Rodrigo M. Young, Lisa M. Lawrence, Heather L. Stickney, Thomas A. Hawkins, Quenten P. Schwarz, Florencia Cavodeassi, Stephen W. Wilson, Kara L. Cerveny (2016)
Antagonism between Gdf6a and retinoic acid pathways controls timing of retinal neurogenesis and growth of the eye in zebrafish.
Development 2016 143: 1087-1098; doi: 10.1242/dev.130922
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Bazin-Lopez N, Valdivia LE, Wilson SW, Gestri G (2015)
Watching eyes take shape
Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2015 Mar 3;32C:73-79. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2015.02.004.
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Moro E, Ozhan-Kizil G, Mongera A, Beis D, Wierzbicki C, Young RM, Bournele D, Domenichini A, Valdivia LE, Lum L, Chen C, Amatruda JF, Tiso N, Weidinger G, Argenton F. (2012)
In vivo Wnt signaling tracing through a transgenic biosensor fish reveals novel activity domains.
Dev Biol, 366 (2), 327-340
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Valdivia LE, Young RM, Hawkins TA, Stickney HL, Cavodeassi F, Schwarz Q, Pullin LM, Villegas R, Moro E, Argenton F, Allende ML, Wilson SW. (2011)
Lef1-dependent Wnt/{beta}-catenin signalling drives the proliferative engine that maintains tissue homeostasis during lateral line development.
Development. 2011 Sep;138(18):3931-41
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