Rik KorswagenDr. H.C. Korswagen
Hubrecht Institute
Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and
University Medical Center Utrecht
Uppsalalaan 8
3584 CT Utrecht
The Netherlands
Phone: +31 30 212 1981
FAX: +31 30 251 6464

Curriculum Vitae

Hendrik (Rik) Korswagen studied medical biology at the Utrecht University. He received his PhD (cum laude) from the University of Amsterdam in 1999, based on research performed in the group of Ronald Plasterk at the Netherlands Cancer Institute. For this work he received the 1997 Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Award. He continued his postdoctoral research in the group of Hans Clevers at the University Medical Center in Utrecht. In 2000 he became a junior (and in 2005 a senior) group leader at the Hubrecht Institute, studying the mechanism and regulation of Wnt signaling in C. elegans.

Research summary

Wnt proteins are members of a conserved family of signaling molecules that play a central role in development, adult tissue homeostasis and disease. In the past decade, much attention has been focused on how binding of Wnt to its receptors LRP6 and Frizzled triggers the expression of specific target genes and we now have a detailed understanding of the so-called canonical Wnt/beta-catenin pathway that is involved. Wnt proteins also activate other signaling pathways and especially the signaling mechanisms that control Wnt dependent cell and axon migration are still mostly unexplored. Also, it is still largely unknown how the lipid-modified Wnt protein is secreted from producing cells and how it forms the highly reproducible concentration gradients that are essential for the correct patterning of developing tissues. We use the nematode C. elegans to study these two key questions:

Mechanism of Wnt secretion: we are taking a combined genetic and cell biological approach to study the mechanism of Wnt secretion. Central to our studies is the Wnt binding protein Wntless (Wls), which shuttles between the Golgi and the plasma membrane to mediate Wnt secretion. We have performed genome-wide RNAi screens in C. elegans to identify regulators of Wls trafficking, which we are studying in C. elegans and in mammalian tissue-culture cells.

Wnt signaling and cell migration: we are using the left-right asymmetric migration of the Q neuroblasts in C. elegans as a model system to study Wnt controlled cell migration. We have two main questions: First, how do cells choose between canonical and non-canonical Wnt pathways? We are addressing this question using genetics, live cell imaging and single mRNA FISH of Wnt receptors and pathway components. Second, we are genetically dissecting the non-canonical Wnt signaling pathway that controls anterior migration of the Q neuroblast descendants..

For more information, visit the group website at: http://www.hubrecht.eu/research/korswagen/index.html

Lab members

Marco Betist

PhD students
Teije Middelkoop
Reinoud de Groot
Remco Mentink


Cullen, P.J. and Korswagen, H.C. (2012) Sorting nexins provide diversity for retromer-dependent trafficking events. Nature Cell Biol. 14: 29-37.

Harterink, M., Port, F., Lorenowicz, M., McGough, I., Silhankova, M., Betist, M., van Weering, J., van Heesbeen, R., Middelkoop, T., Basler, K., Cullen, P., Korswagen, H.C. (2011) A SNX3-dependent Retromer pathway mediates retrograde transport of the Wnt sorting receptor Wntless and is required for Wnt secretion. Nature Cell Biol. 13:914-923.

Yang, P.T., Lorenowicz, M., Silhankova, M., Coudreuse, D.Y.M., Betist, M.C., Korswagen, H.C. (2008) Wnt signaling requires retromer dependent recycling of MIG-14/Wls in Wnt producing cells. Dev. Cell, 14: 140-147.

Coudreuse, D.Y.M., Roel, G., Betist, M.C., Destree, O., Korswagen, H.C. (2006) Wnt gradient formation requires retromer function in Wnt producing cells. Science 312: 921-924.

Essers, M.A., de Vries-Smits, L.M.M., Barker, N., Polderman, P.E., Burgering, B.M.T., Korswagen, H.C. (2005) Functional interaction between beta-catenin and FOXO in oxidative stress signaling. Science 308: 1181-1184.

Korswagen, H.C., Herman, M.A., Clevers, H.C. (2000) Distinct beta-catenins mediate adhesion and signaling functions in C. elegans. Nature 406: 527-532.