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Cell Biology: Benjamin Rowland

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Benjamin RowlandJr. Group Leader

About Benjamin Rowland

Chromosome organization by SMC complexes
Human chromosomes are centimetres in length, but are organized such that they fit into a cell of micrometre-scale dimensions. Within this confined setting, chromosomes allow for tightly controlled cellular processes such as mitosis and transcription. These processes are to an important degree made possible by two conserved protein complexes known as cohesin and condensin. Both cohesin and condensin are so-called SMC complexes that by entrapping DNA inside their ring-shaped lumens can structure chromosomes.

Cohesin and condensin each in its own way ensures the fidelity of chromosome segregation. Cohesin holds together the sisters chromatids of each chromosome and resists the pulling forces of microtubules until all kinetochores are attached by the spindle apparatus. Then the abrupt cleavage of cohesin rings triggers the synchronous segregation of sister chromatids to the opposite poles of the cell. Condensin in turn is important for chromosome condensation. This process is required to ensure that chromosomes are shortened enough to allow the splitting in half of the cell during cytokinesis without DNA getting caught in the middle. Cohesin also plays a major role in the 3D organization of interphase chromosomes. By looping together CTCF sites along chromosomes, cohesin has a fundamental role in transcriptional regulation.

Research in our lab centres on the mode of action of cohesin and condensin. How do these complexes entrap and release DNA? How does cohesin know which DNAs to hold together to confer sister chromatid cohesion? How does condensin drive mitotic chromosome condensation? And how does cohesin contribute to the formation of the often megabase-sized loops that shape interphase chromosomes? These are the kind of questions that keep us awake at night and drive our research. We are addressing such questions using a combination of genetics, biochemistry and imaging, using both budding yeast and human cells.


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Ahmed Elbatsh

Postdoctoral Fellow


My PhD was commenced in January 2012, under supervision of Dr. Benjamin Rowland. My project's theme is focusing on how cohesin dissociates from DNA and the critical factors mediating this process. I am addressing these questions using the state-of-the-art- genetics with advanced microscopy and various biochemical approaches.

I have earned my Master's degree in drug innovation from Utrecht University after I was granted the Utrecht Excellence Scholarship. During my master's, I completed two internships, in the lab of Dr. Alfred Schinkel in the NKI and in the lab of Dr. Steven Pollard in University College London Cancer institute.

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Judith Haarhuis

Postdoctoral Fellow


During my study Cancer, Genomics and Developmental Biology at Utrecht University I went for an intership to the group of prof. dr. K. Cimprich at Stanford University to study DNA Damage in Xenopus extracts.

After that I joined the lab of Benjamin Rowland as a PhD student. Here I study how sister chromatid cohesion is being regulated during cell division using yeast and human cell lines as a model organism.

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van Ruiten, Marjon

Marjon van Ruiten

PhD Student


In 2016 I started my PhD in the group of Benjamin Rowland. Within the group we are interested in the role of SMC complexes in chromosome organization. More specifically, I study the mechanism by which cohesin mediates the formation of chromatin loops.
I have earned my Master's degree in biomedical sciences at Utrecht University, where I was enrolled in the program "Cancer, Stem Cells and Developmental Biology". I performed my first internship in the lab of Benjamin Rowland. My second internship took place in the lab of David Langenau at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

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Bos, uit de Jelmi

Jelmi uit de Bos

Master Student


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Research updates View All Updates

  • Student positions Rowland lab

    From time to time we have Postdoc, PhD student and Master student positions available. If you are interested in joining our lab, feel free to send an enquiring email including your CV and motivation to Benjamin Rowland (b.rowland AT

Key publications View All Publications

  • Cohesin and its regulation: On the logic of X-shaped chromosomes

    Dev. Cell 2014; 31:7-18

    Haarhuis JH, Elbatsh AM, Rowland BD.

  • WAPL-mediated removal of cohesin protects against segregation errors and aneuploidy

    Curr. Biol. 2013; 23:2071-2077.

    Haarhuis JH, Elbatsh AM, van den Broek B, Camps D, Erkan H, Jalink K, Medema RH, Rowland BD


Recent publications View All Publications

  • Cohesin releases DNA through asymmetric ATPase-driven ring opening

    Mol. Cell 2016; 61:575-588

    Elbatsh AM, Haarhuis JH, Petela N, Chapard C, Fish A, Celie PH, Stadnik M, Ristic D, Wyman C, Medema RH, Nasmyth K, Rowland BD

  • Releasing activity disengages cohesin’s Smc3/Scc1 interface in a process blocked by acetylation

    Mol. Cell 2016; 61:563-574

    Beckouët F, Srinivasan M, Roig MB, Chan KL, Scheinost JC, Batty P, Petela N, Gligoris T, Smith AC, Strmecki L, Rowland BD, Nasmyth K ...



  • Office manager

    Mariet van den Berg

  • E-mail

  • Telephone Number

    +31 512 9184

Van den Berg, Mariet


'Research for the benefit of cancer patients'

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