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Huylebroeck, Danny

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Prof.Dr. Danny HuylebroeckDanny Huylebroeck studied zoology at the University of Gent and has obtained his PhD degree in molecular biology from the same university in 1985 on a project involving the cloning and sequencing of the first human influenza virus genes (encoding e.g. hemagglutinin, neuraminidase) in order to explain the antigenic drift of the virus and the animal origin (in ducks) of the Hong Kong 1968 human pandemic.

He was then an EMBO long-term post-doc fellow at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg, in the Cell Biology department for two years working on intracellular trafficking of membrane proteins, the cloning of an infectious cDNA clone of the positive strand RNA virus Semliki Forest Virus, and the cloning and expression (using recombinant vaccinia virus) of activin cDNA in mammalian cells.


After his return from EMBL, Danny Huylebroeck became responsible at Innogenetics S.A. (Gent) as senior group leader for a number of research projects, including on growth factors, including activins, where together with researchers from the Hubrecht Laboratory and NIMR, Mill Hill, UK, he demonstrated that activins had dorsal mesoderm-inducing activity in amphibian embryos.

In 1992 he established the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at KU Leuven and became part-time professor. This laboratory, focusing on TGFβ family signaling in vertebrate embryos, then became part of the Flanders Institute of Biotechnology (VIB) in 1995 for the next 16 years, where he was a VIB departmental director. In 2006, he became full professor in developmental biology in the Faculty of Medicine at KU Leuven where, in 2012, his lab became part of the newly established department of Development and Regeneration and the Stem Cell Institute.

In 2011, he was a KNAW visiting professor at ErasmusMC in the department of Cell Biology. In 2013, Danny Huylebroeck moved to the Cell Biology department and the Stem Cell Institute (ESI) at ErasmusMC.

The major current research interests include:

  • Functional analysis of Smad signaling and Smad-interacting proteins (SIPs, including transcription factors) in conditional knockout mice and embryonic stem cells from mouse and human
  • Systems biology of Smad/SIP signaling in embryonic stem cell differentiation
  • Mouse models for studying BMP-regulated stem cell niches

The overall objective of these studies is to gain an understanding of the genetic and molecular mechanisms that make cells change their fate in the early embryo, in organogenesis and in stem cell niches, including after injury. Focus remains on TGFβ/BMP family signaling in vertebrate animal models and stem cells, with main interest in the central and peripheral nervous systems.


Key publications

van den Berghe V, Stappers E, Vandesande B, Dimidschstein J, Kroes R, Francis A, Conidi A, Lesage F, Dries R, Cazzola S, Berx G, Kessaris N, Vanderhaeghen P, van IJcken W, Grosveld FG, Goossens S, Haigh JJ, Fishell G, Goffinet A, Aerts S, Huylebroeck D*, Seuntjens E*. (2013).
Directed migration of cortical interneurons depends on the cell-autonomous action of Sip1.
Neuron 77:70-82.

Pereira PN, Dobreva MP, Maas E, Cornelis F, Moya IM, Umans L, Verfaillie CM, Camus A, Chuva de Sousa-Lopes SM, Huylebroeck D, Zwijsen A*. (2012).
Antagonism of Nodal signaling by BMP/Smad5 prevents ectopic primitive streak formation in the mouse amnion.
Development 139:3343-3354.

Weng Q, Chen Y, Wang H, Xu X, Yang B, He Q, Shou W, Chen Y, Higashi Y, van den Berghe V, Seuntjens E, Kernie SG, Bukshpun P, Sherr EH, Huylebroeck D, Lu QR*. (2012).
Dual-mode modulation of Smad signaling by Smad-interacting protein Sip1 is required for myelination in the CNS.
Neuron 73:713-728.

Moya IM, Umans L, Maas E, Pereira PNG, Beets K, Francis A, Sents W, Robertson EJ, Mummery CL, Huylebroeck D, Zwijsen A*. (2012).
Stalk cell phenotype depends on integration of Notch and Smad1/5 signaling cascades.
Dev Cell 22:501-514.

Goossens S, Janzen V, Bartunkova S, Yokomizo T, Drogat B, Crisan M, Haigh K, Seuntjens E, Umans L, Riedt T, Bogaert P, Haenebalcke L, Berx G, Dzierzak E, Huylebroeck D*, Haigh JJ*. (2011).
The EMT regulator Zeb2/Sip1 is essential for murine embryonic hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell differentiation and mobilization.
Blood 117:5620-5630.

Seuntjens E, Nityanandam A, Miquelajauregui A, Debruyn J, Stryjewska A, Goebbels S, Nave KA, Huylebroeck D*, Tarabykin V*. (2009).
Sip1 (Zfhx1b) regulates sequential fate decisions through feedback signalling from postmitotic neurons to progenitor cells.
Nature Neurosci 12:1373-1380.