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Biochemistry: Wouter Moolenaar


Wouter Moolenaar, Ph.D. professorGroup leader, professor

About Wouter Moolenaar

Lipid Growth Factor Signaling

The Autotaxin-LPA Signaling Axis
LPA is an extracellular signaling molecule that acts through multiple G protein-coupled receptors present in numerous cell types.LPA receptor signaling is implicated in a wide variety of physiological and pathological processes, ranging from vascular development to metastasis. The classical LPA receptors stimulate cell migration and proliferation, and are implicated in cell transformation and metastasis. Newly identified LPA receptors can mediate inhibitory responses, which renders the global LPA signaling picture increasingly complex. One challenge is to understand how distinct LPA receptors cooperate, to predict the biological outcome of LPA stimulation in a given cell type.
Autotaxin (ATX) is the major LPA-producing enzyme in plasma and tissues. We are analyzing the function of autotaxin using multiple approaches, including structural studies and the development of mouse models and small-molecule inhibitors. The knockout mouse revealed an unexpected function for ATX in vascular development. Furthermore, the structure of ATX revealed novel features, notably the presence of a deep lipid-binding pocket and a nearby open tunnel, which we are now further investigating (collaboration A. Perrakis). Our studies have provided new insights into the mode of action of ATX, and how it delivers LPA to target cells. Targeting the ATX-LPA signaling axis may prove a valuable strategy for inhibiting tumor cell growth and metastasis.


Matas, Elisa.jpg

Elisa Matas Rico

Postdoctoral Fellow


I received my PhD from the University of Málaga (Spain),  where I characterized the neurophysiological abnormalities in LPA1 receptor knockout mice. Since 2010, I am working as a postdoctoral fellow in the Moolenaar lab at the NKI.

My project focuses on the role of a transmembrane exo-phosphodiesterase, termed GDE2, in the morphological differentiation of neuroblastoma cells. We discovered that GDE2 expression leads to altered neuronal morphology and attenuates LPA signaling. My goal is to elucidate how GDE2 expression intersects with LPA signaling to promote neuroblastoma differentiation.     

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Key publications View All Publications

  • Structural basis of substrate discrimination and integrin binding by autotaxin

    Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2011; 18: 198-204

    Hausmann J, Kamtekar S, Christodoulou E, Day JE, Wu T, Fulkerson Z, Albers HM, van Meeteren LA, Houben AJ, van Zeijl L, Jansen S, Andries et al.

    Link to PubMed
  • Autotaxin: structure-function and signaling.

    (2014) J Lipid Res. Feb 18;55(6):1010-1018. [Epub ahead of print]

    Perrakis A, Moolenaar WH.

    Link to PubMed

Recent publications View All Publications

  • Negative regulation of urokinase receptor activity by a GPI-specific phospholipase C in breast cancer cells

    (2017) Elife. Aug 29;6. pii: e23649.

    van Veen M, Matas-Rico E, van de Wetering K, Leyton-Puig D, Kedziora KM, De Lorenzi V, Stijf-Bultsma Y, van den Broek B, Jalink K, Sidenius...

    Link to PubMed
  • Neuronal differentiation through GPI-anchor cleavage.

    (2017) Cell Cycle. Mar 4;16(5):388-389

    Matas-Rico E, van Veen M, Moolenaar WH.

    Link to PubMed


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    Mirna Ekelschot - van Diermen

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    +31 20 512 9127



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