Kirsten ten TusscherDr. Kirsten H.W.J. ten Tusscher
Theoretical Biology / Bioinformatics
Department of Biology
Faculty of Science, Utrecht University
Kruytgebouw, room Z510
Padualaan 8
3584 CH Utrecht
The Netherlands
Tel.: +31 (0)30 2533637
Fax: +31 (0)30 2513655

Curriculum Vitae

Kirsten ten Tusscher studied computational biology at Utrecht University, where she obtained her PhD on computational models of cardiac arrhythmias in 2004. She became an independent group leader at Simula, a computational research institute in Oslo Norway in 2008, refocussing her research on computational models of developmental patterning processes and their evolution. In 2010 she joined the Utrecht Biology department as an assistant professor, and since May 2016 she has an associate professor position. She received a Vidi grant (2015)  as well as a Building Blocks of Life grant (2017) to expand her research on deciphering the logic of plant development and adaptation.

Research summary

The Ten Tusscher lab focuses on developing computational models that enable us to decipher developmental patterning processes in animals and plants.

In animals we focus on the patterning of the anterior-posterior axis.   Specifically, we develop models to investigate what type of regulatory networks organize posterior growth and segmentation of the animal body axis and what type of conditions and evolutionary selection pressures gave rise to these developmental programs. We use in silico evolutionary models to “play the tape” again and again, thereby enabling us to determine whether particular evolutionary outcomes occur more often than others, and what are the relevant parameters determining the bias towards these outcomes. Thus we try to answer why the mode of body axis segmentation, where a temporal oscillation becomes translated into a spatial pattern of segments, is dominant in both vertebrates, arthropods and annelids.

In plants we focus on the interplay between development and adaptation to environmental conditions of the root system. For this we extensively collaborate with experimental plant groups, investigating the impact of salt stress, phosphate starvation and competition for light on root growth patterns. This research has both applied and fundamental branches. On the applied side,  answering how plants adapt to adverse stress conditions may identify targets for crop breeders to produce more stress tolerant plants. On the more fundamental side, we try to answer general questions such as why the plant hormone auxin can fulfill so many different roles, both in development and adaptation. Also, we try to answer how plants, which have no central nervous system, are able to integrate information from different sides of the plant and generate a coherent response. Finally, we study the type of regulatory networks that allow plants to form new lateral organs, which requires them to initiate, grow and control a new meristem from scratch.

Lab members

  • Thea van den Berg -PhD student
  • Jaap Rutten -PhD student
  • Daniel Weisse -postdoctoral researcher
  • Peter de Greef -masterstudent
  • Sophia Scheper -masterstudent


Ten Tusscher KH, Laskowski M.(2017) Periodic lateral root priming, what makes it tick. Plant Cell.  pii: tpc.00638.2016.

van den Berg T, Korver RA, Testerink CS,  Ten Tusscher KH (2016). Modeling halotropism: A key role for root tip architecture and reflux loop remodeling in redistributing auxin.
Development , pii: dev.135111.

Vroomans RM, Hogeweg P, Ten Tusscher KH. (2016). In silico evo-devo: reconstructing stages in the evolution of animal segmentation. Evodevo ,7: 14.

Kazbanov I.V., Tusscher K. Panfilov A.V. (2016). Effects of Heterogeneous Diffuse Fibrosis on Arrhythmia Dynamics and Mechanism. Sci Rep , 20835.

Vroomans R.M.A., Hogeweg P., Ten Tusscher K. (2015). Segment-specific adhesion as a driver for convergent extension. PLoS Computational Biology , e1004092.

Mahonen A.P., Ten Tusscher K., Siligato R., Smetana O., Diaz-Trivino S., Salojarvi J., Wachsman G., Prasad K., Heidstra R., Scheres B. (2014). PLETHORA gradient formation mechanism separates auxin responses. Nature , nature13663.

Van Berkel K., De Boer R.J., Scheres B. & Ten Tusscher K.H. (2013). Polar auxin transport: models and mechanisms. Development , 140: 2253-2268.

Ten Tusscher K.H. (2013). Mechanisms and constraints shaping the evolution of body plan

Ten Tusscher KH, Hogeweg P. Evolution of networks for body plan patterning; interplay of modularity, robustness and evolvability. PLoS Comput Biol. 2011 Oct;7(10)

ten Tusscher K, Scheres B. Joining forces: feedback and integration in plant development. Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2011 Dec;21(6):799-805.

ten Tusscher KH, Hogeweg P. The role of genome and gene regulatory network canalization in the evolution of multi-trait polymorphisms and sympatric speciation. BMC Evol Biol. 2009 Jul 9;9:159.

ten Tusscher KH, Mourad A, Nash MP, Clayton RH, Bradley CP, Paterson DJ, Hren R, Hayward M, Panfilov AV, Taggart P. Organization of ventricular fibrillation in the human heart: experiments and models. Exp Physiol. 2009 May;94(5):553-62.

Ten Tusscher KH, Hren R, Panfilov AV. Organization of ventricular fibrillation in the human heart. Circ Res. 2007 Jun 22;100(12):e87-101.