Molecular and developmental endocrinology

Lead researcher

Bert De GroefDr Bert De Groef

Senior Lecturer, College of Science, Health and Engineering

View profile, publications and contact details

Our research focuses on the role of (neuro)hormones, receptors and gene transcription factors in vertebrate embryonic development, using the mouse and chicken as the main animal models. Our research is a mix of endocrinology, neurobiology, molecular genetics and developmental biology.

Commonly used techniques include real-time RT-PCR, gene cloning, histology, combined in situ hybridisation and immunohistochemistry, and in vitro perifusion. This basic research provides a basis for applications in both medicine and animal production.

Below are some examples of current projects.

Biological role of PLAG1

PLAG1 is a gene transcription factor that is responsible for some types of tumours, but little is known about its biological role in healthy animals. A PLAG1 knock-out mouse line shows an important role for PLAG1 in growth and reproduction.

Using this knock-out mouse, developed by Prof. Dr. Em. Wim Van de Ven (KU Leuven, Belgium), we study the biological role of the transcription factor PLAG1. How does PLAG1 affect fertility? What is the significance of the high expression of PLAG1 in the pituitary gland and the brain? What are the target genes of PLAG1 in different organs?

Evolution of the CRHR2 gene

The CRHR2 gene encodes a hormone receptor that is responsible for some of the actions of the neuropeptide corticotropin-releasing hormone or CRH. In the pituitary gland, activation of this receptor stimulates the release of the hormone TSH, but only in non-mammalian vertebrates like salmon, frogs, turtles and chicken - not in mammals.

We investigate the gene regulation and evolutionary history of CRHR2. What drives expression of CRHR2 in TSH cells in non-mammalian species? Why is CRHR2 no longer expressed on the TSH-producing cells in mammals? How and when did this evolutionary change happen? Where do marsupials fit in this story?