The division of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Biophysics includes independent research groups, which all investigate the organization and function of cells – their structure, their physiological properties, the organelles they contain and the interactions with their environment. Our aim is to acquire novel fundamental insights into cell biological processes and to decipher the cellular basis for human diseases such as cancer and neurological disorders.

We are mostly interested in the dynamic nature of cellular processes such as cytoskeletal remodeling, membrane trafficking and signaling pathways in both healthy and diseased states. This includes, for example, research to understand how the microtubule cytoskeleton is involved in cell division and motility, neuronal development or axon regeneration after spinal cord injury. Another example is the development of optogenetic tools to locally modulate cellular processes such as cell migration, polarization and signalling.

To study cell biological processes, we combine the latest methods and technologies in molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics and microscopy. Our research covers different levels of complexity, from individual molecules to cells cultured in two- and three-dimensional environments, tissues and whole organisms. We have infrastructure for single molecule imaging, super-resolution light microscopy and in vivo molecular imaging. The division of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Biophysics houses two facilities, the Biology Imaging Center (BIC), which provides access, support and training in advanced light and fluorescent microscopy techniques and the Utrecht Nanobody Facility (UNF), which offers technology for the selection and production of nanobodies.

Research Groups

Anna Akhmanova: Cellular Dynamics

We investigate cytoskeletal organization and trafficking processes, which contribute to cell polarization, differentiation, vertebrate development and human disease.

Casper Hoogenraad: Cell Biology of the Neuron

The primary goal of the lab is to understand how intracellular trafficking underlies neuronal development and synapse function.

Lukas Kapitein: Biophysics

Our goal is to obtain a physical understanding of the mechanisms by which cells establish and maintain their precise shape and intracellular organization.

Paul van Bergen en Henegouwen: Molecular Oncology

Our goal is to develop novel technologies for the diagnosis, molecular imaging and targeted therapy of cancer.  In our research we make use of single domain antibodies (VHH or nanobodies).

Esther de Graaff: Molecular Neurodevelopment

We study the functioning of the brain during development and in adult life focusing on genetic malformations and autoimmune antibodies targeting neuronal

Maarten Kole: Axonal Signalling

Our group aims to understand how axons generate and conduct electrical impulses by investigating the properties and functions of its axonal domains and the myelin sheaths.

Jan Andries Post: Cellular Electron Microscopy

To gain insight into cellular functioning, we apply and develop novel visualization approaches such as correlative Light-Electron Microscopy and 3D-Electron Microscopy.

Corette Wierenga: Neurophysiology

The strength and number of synapses are adjusted by experience. We study how the changes in excitatory and inhibitory synapses are coordinated to balance the two opposing forces. 

Selected Recent Publications

Yau KW, van Beuningen SF, Cunha-Ferreira I, Cloin BM, van Battum EY, Will L, Schatzle P, Tas RP, van Krugten J, Katrukha EA, Jiang K, Wulf PS, Mikhaylova M, Harterink M, Pasterkamp RJ, Akhmanova A, Kapitein LC, and Hoogenraad CC (2014). Microtubule minus-end binding protein CAMSAP2 controls axon specification and dendrite development. Neuron 82, 1058-73.

Heukers R, Altintas I, Raghoenath S, De Zan E, Pepermans R, Roovers RC, Haselberg R, Hennink WE, Schiffelers RM, Kok RJ, and van Bergen en Henegouwen PM (2014). Targeting hepatocyte growth factor receptor (Met) positive tumor cells using internalizing nanobody-decorated albumin nanoparticles. Biomaterials 35, 601-10.

Jiang K, Hua S, Mohan R, Grigoriev I, Yau KW, Liu Q, Katrukha EA, Altelaar AF, Heck AJ, Hoogenraad CC, and Akhmanova A (2014). Microtubule minus-end stabilization by polymerization-driven CAMSAP deposition. Dev Cell 28, 295-309.

van Spronsen M, Mikhaylova M, Lipka J, Schlager MA, van den Heuvel DJ, Kuijpers M, Wulf PS, Keijzer N, Demmers J, Kapitein LC, Jaarsma D, Gerritsen HC, Akhmanova A, and Hoogenraad CC (2013). TRAK/Milton motor-adaptor proteins steer mitochondrial trafficking to axons and dendrites. Neuron 77, 485-502.

van der Vaart B, van Riel WE, Doodhi H, Kevenaar JT, Katrukha EA, Gumy L, Bouchet BP, Grigoriev I, Spangler SA, Yu KL, Wulf PS, Wu J, Lansbergen G, van Battum EY, Pasterkamp RJ, Mimori-Kiyosue Y, Demmers J, Olieric N, Maly IV, Hoogenraad CC, and Akhmanova A (2013). CFEOM1-associated kinesin KIF21A is a cortical microtubule growth inhibitor. Dev Cell 27, 145-60.