Cytokine Receptor Lab


Supervisor: Prof. dr. Jan Tavernier

Staff Members and
Post-doctoral Researchers

Doctoral Students

Technical Staff

Prof. dr. Karolien De Bosscher
Prof. dr. Sarah Gerlo
Prof. dr. Frank Peelman
Prof. dr. Anje Cauwels
Dr. Irma Lemmens
Dr. Joris Wauman
Dr. Lennart Zabeau
Dr. Leentje De Ceuninck
Dr. Leander Huyghe
Dr. Sandra Van Lint
Dr. Visnja Popovic

Julie Deckers
Sofie Desmet
Laurens Vincke
Delphine Masschaele
Raffaele Mori
Kevin Titeca
Viacheslav Mylka
Astrid Luypaert
Bram Van Den Eeckhout
Dorien Clarisse
Ann-Sophie Batsleer
Laura Van Moortel
Nadia Bougarne
Dominiek Catteeuw
Lode De Cauwer
Dieter Defever
Steffi De Rouck
Anne-Sophie De Smet
Elien Ruyssinck
José Van der Heyden
Nele Vanderroost
Annick Verhee
Elianne Burg
Elke Rogge
Jonathan Thommis
Veronic De Puysseleyr

Research Focus

Communication between cells is crucial for development, host defense and metabolism in higher eukaryotes. Cytokines are small proteins that relay signals between various cell types in our body. The α-helical bundle group of cytokines has been the research focus at the CRL since its launch in 1996. This family comprises most interleukins, the interferons and colony stimulating factors, together with hormones such as growth hormone and leptin. Many human diseases are associated with malfunctioning of this communication system including auto-immune diseases and metabolic disorders.

The receptors for these cytokines are composed of an extracellular, ligand-binding domain that is linked to the cytosolic, signaling part by a single transmembrane region. At the Cytokine Receptor Lab (, we are investigating several key aspects of these receptors using the type I interferon and leptin receptor as models. Studies range from the mechanisms controlling receptor cell surface expression and activation, the ensuing signal transduction cascade down to the mechanisms that control gene expression.

A key signaling route is the JAK/STAT pathway. Based on insights into pathway, we developed the MAPPIT two-hybrid system. This trap allows detecting molecular interactions in intact human cells. Over the years, we expanded this concept to a suite of techniques for detecting protein interactions, even at a proteome-wide scale, but also for drug screening and profiling. Numerous national and international collaborations are in place to apply this MAPPIT toolbox, both in academia and in industrial settings. Industrial valorization is further underpinned with a consortium supported by the UGent Industrial Research Fund (IOF) and initiatives from UGent Tech Transfer.

More recently, under the supervision of the different staff members, new research lines were initiated on Toll-like receptors, nuclear receptors and on receptors involved in ER stress (the latter as part of the GROUP-ID UGent spearhead program). Pathologies associated with these receptor systems also include immune and metabolism-related diseases. Through these research programs, we also strive to combine basic and translational research.

Selected Publications

Icardi, L., Mori, R., Gesellchen, V., Eyckerman, S., De Cauwer, L., Verhelst, J., Vercauteren, K., Saelens, X., Meuleman, P., Leroux-Roels, G., De Bosscher, K., Boutros, M. & Tavernier, J.
The Sin3a repressor complex is a master regulator of STAT transcriptional activity.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 109, 12058-12063 (2012).

Lievens, S., De Bosscher, K., Lemmens, I., Peelman, F. & Tavernier, J.
MAPPIT: a protein interaction toolbox built on insights in cytokine receptor signalling.
Cytokine Growth Factor Rev., 22, 321-329 (2011).

Venkatesan, K.*, Rual, J.-F.*, Vazquez, A.*, Stelzl, U.*, Lemmens, I.*, Hirozane-Kishikawa, T., Hao, T.,
Zenkner, M., Xin, X., Goh, K., Yildirim, M., Simonis, N., Heinzmann, K., Gebreab, F., Sahalie, J., Cevik, S.,
Simon, C., De Smet, A-S., Dann, E., Smolyar, A., Vinayagam, A., Yu, H., Szeto, D., Borick, H., Dricot, A.,
Klitgord, N., Murray, R., Lalowski, M., Timm, J., Rau, K., Boone, C., Braun, P., Cusick, M., Roth, F., Hill, D., Tavernier, J. $, Wanker, E. $, Barabasi, A.$ & Vidal, M. $
An empirical framework for binary interactome mapping.
* Shared first authors,  $ corresponding authors
Nat. Methods 6, 83-90 (2009).

Lievens, S., Lemmens, I. & Tavernier, J.
Mammalian two-hybrids come of age.
Trends in Biochemical Sciences, 34, 579-588 (2009).

Yu, H., Braun, P., Yildirim, M.A., Lemmens, I., Sahalie, J., Li, N., Hirozane-Kishikawa, T., Simonis, N.,
Hao, T., Gebreab, F., Dricot, A., Vazquez, A., Murray, R.R., Simon, C., Tardivo, L., Tam, S., Svrzikapa, N.,
Fan, C., Motyl, A., Hudson, M.E., Park, J., Xin, X., Cusick, M.E., Boone, C., Snyder, M., Roth, F.P.,
Barabasi, A., Tavernier, J., Hill, D.E., & Vidal, M.
High quality binary protein interaction map of the yeast interactome network.
Science, 322, 104-110 (2008).


Jan Tavernier Lab @ VIB

Tech Transfer UGent

Jan Tavernier is a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts