sander_van_den_heuvel_bProf. Dr. Sander van den Heuvel
Developmental Biology
Faculty of Science, Utrecht University
Kruytgebouw, room O507
Padualaan 8
3584 CH  Utrecht
The Netherlands
Tel. +31-(0)30-253 3573
Fax +31-(0)30-253 3655

Curriculum Vitae

Sander van den Heuvel studied Biology at Utrecht University and obtained his Ph.D. degree in 1991 at Leiden University (Experimental Oncology). As a postdoctoral fellow, he worked with Ed Harlow at the MGH Cancer Center and with Robert Horvitz at MIT (MA, USA). In 1996, he started his own research group at the MGH Cancer Center, and became assistant-professor at Harvard Medical School in 1997. Since 2005, he is full Professor in Developmental Biology at Utrecht University. He is the Chair of the Graduate School of Life Sciences at Utrecht University, and received grants and awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), AstraZeneca, the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, the Alexander and Margaret Stewart Trust, The Medical Foundation and NWO.

Research summary

Our research focuses on the coordinated regulation of cell division and differentiation in the context of development and disease. Our goal is to obtain a deeper understanding, at the molecular and systems level, of the mechanisms that control proliferative versus asymmetric cell division, and the decision to re-enter or withdraw from the cell division cycle. These studies are substantially based on observations in developing animalsand combine genetics and live imaging of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans with gene-expression profiling, mass spectrometry analysis, yeast two-hybrid studies, and experiments with cells in culture. In addition, we have started to include mathematical modeling and computer simulation in our studies of asymmetric cell division, in collaboration with the theoretical biology department at Utrecht University.

A major topic of study is the regulated positioning of the mitotic spindle. The spindle position determines the plane of cell cleavage, and thereby the size of daughter cells as well as the position of daughter cells within a tissue or with respect to a stem cell niche, and the distribution of cell fate determinants during asymmetric division. Our current efforts focus on resolving how cell-cycle and cell-polarity kinases together regulate the function and position of the spindle apparatus in space and time, in order to coordinate chromosome segregation with cell fate determination during asymmetric cell division.

Another line of study focuses on the coordination between cell proliferation and differentiation during development and tissue homeostasis. We combine forward and reverse genetic manipulation of muscle cells and neurons in C. elegans with experiments on rat hippocampal neurons in culture. Comprehensive understanding of the molecular mechanisms that promote and maintain cell-cycle exit upon terminal differentiation is both of fundamental importance and highly relevant for regenerative medicine and cancer research.

For more information, visit the group website at:

Lab members

Senior Staff:
Adri Thomas –
Inge The –

Anniek van der Vaart –
Molly Godfrey –

Lab/facility Managers:
Vincent Portegijs –
Juliane Teapal –

Ph.D. students:
Suzanne van der Horst –
Vincent Portegijs –
Lars Eric Fielmich –
Ruben Schmidt –
Janine Anselmo Cravo –


  1. van Rijnberk LM, van der Horst SE, van den Heuvel S, Ruijtenberg S.  A dual transcriptional reporter and CDK-activity sensor marks cell cycle entry and progression in C. elegans. PLoS One. 2017 Feb 3;12(2):e0171600. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171600
  2. Portegijs V, Fielmich LE, Galli M, Schmidt R, Muñoz J, van Mourik T, Akhmanova A, Heck AJR, Boxem M, van den Heuvel S, Multisite Phosphorylation of NuMA-Related LIN-5 Controls Mitotic Spindle Positioning in C. elegans PLOS Genetics 2016; 12(10), e1006291
  3. Waaijers S, Muñoz J, Berends C, Ramalho JJ, Goerdayal SS, Low TY, Zoumaro-Djayoon AD, Hoffmann M, Koorman T, Tas RP, Harterink M, Seelk S, Kerver J, Hoogenraad CC, Bossinger O, Tursun B, van den Heuvel S, Heck AJR, and Boxem M. A tissue-specific protein purification approach in Caenorhabditis elegans identifies novel interaction partners of DLG-1/Discs large. BMC Biology 2016, 14:66 DOI: 10.1186/s12915-016-0286-x
  4. Harterink M, van Bergeijk P, Allier C, de Haan B, van den Heuvel S, Hoogenraad CC, Kapitein LC. Light-controlled intracellular transport in Caenorhabditis elegans. Curr Biol. 2016 Feb 22;26(4):R153-4. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.12.016.
  5. Koorman T, Klompstra D, van der Voet M, Lemmens I, Ramalho JJ, Nieuwenhuize S, van den Heuvel S, Tavernier J, Nance J, Boxem M. A combined binary interaction and phenotypic map of C. elegans cell polarity proteins. Nature Cell Biol. 2016 Mar;18(3):337-46. doi: 10.1038/ncb3300.
  6. Ruijtenberg S and van den Heuvel, S. G1/S inhibitors and the SWI/SNF complex control cell cycle exit during muscle differentiation. Cell. 2015; 2015 Jul 16;162(2):300-13, Epub 2015 Jul 2
  7. The SI, Ruijtenberg S, Bouchet BP, Cristobal A, Prinsen MBW, van Mourik T, Koreth J, Xu H, Heck AJR, Akhmanova A, Cuppen E, Boxem M, Munoz J, and van den Heuvel S. Rb and FZR1/Cdh1 determine CDK4/6-cyclin D requirement in C. elegans and human cancer cells. Nature Commun. 2015 015 Jan 6;6:5906. doi: 10.1038