Sonnen: Signalling dynamics

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The Sonnen group investigates how signalling pathway dynamics encode information to control development and homeostasis of multicellular systems.

Figure 1: Transmitting biological information with signalling dynamics. Information can be encoded in the dynamics of a signalling pathway, for instance in oscillations. The signal can be decoded by reading out the signal in a static (e.g. absolute level at the timepoint highlighted with dashed line) or a dynamic manner.

Signalling pathways coordinate multicellular systems and control cell fate decisions. This way they are absolutely essential to guide embryonic processes such as development, adult tissue homeostasis, regeneration or the immune response. If mutations in signalling pathway components occur, this can for instance result in developmental malformations and disease development such as cancer. Therefore, a long-standing questions in the field of multicellular biology is how signalling pathways function. It has been shown previously that biological information can be encoded in the dynamics (i.e. the temporal change) of a signal. However, most of our knowledge to-date comes from studies using single cells (reviewed in Sonnen and Aulehla 2014). With new technological advancements, we are now at the stage to study how signalling dynamics control development and tissue homeostasis at multicellular level (Sonnen et al. Cell 2018, Sonnen and Merten, Dev Cell 2019). Our work aims at understanding the function and the mechanism of dynamic signal encoding in multicellular systems during embryonic development and adult tissue homeostasis.

For further details also see our Sonnen Lab website.

Key publicationsView all publications

Single-cell and spatial transcriptomics reveal somitogenesis in gastruloids

SC v d Brink, A Alemany, V van Batenburg, N Moris, M Blotenburg, J Vivié, P Baillie-Johnson, J Nichols, KF Sonnen, A Martinez Arias, A v Oudenaarden



Generating gastruloids with somite-like structures from mouse embryonic stem cells

V v Batenburg, SC vd Brink, M Blotenburg, A Alemany, N Moris, P Baillie-Johnson, Y el Azhar, KF Sonnen, A Martinez Arias, A v Oudenaarden



Modulation of phase-shift between Wnt- and Notch-signaling oscillations controls mesoderm segmentation.

Sonnen KF, Lauschke V, Uraji J, Falk H J, Petersen Y, Funk MC, Beaupeux M, François P, Merten CA and Aulehla A.

Cell 172: 1079-1090


Spatiotemporal analysis of a glycolytic activity gradient linked to mouse embryo mesoderm development.

Bulusu V, Prior N, Snaebjornsson MT, Kuehne A, Sonnen KF, Kress J, Stein F, Schultz C, Sauer U and Aulehla A.

Dev Cell 40: 331-341


Other publications

Human Cep192 and Cep152 cooperate in Plk4 recruitment and centriole duplication.

Sonnen KF, Gabryjonczyk AM, Anselm E, Stierhof YD and Nigg EA.

J Cell Sci 126: 3223-3233


Group leader

Katharina Sonnen

Katharina Sonnen is group leader at the Hubrecht Institute. Her group studies how biological information is robustly transmitted via signalling pathway dynamics in multicellular systems. They focus on the role of signalling pathway dynamics (1) during development using mouse somitogenesis as model system and (2) during tissue homeostasis using intestinal organoids as model system. The Sonnen group uses techniques to perturb and quantitatively analyse the dynamics of signalling pathways. They have established a microfluidic system to dynamically modulate intercellular signalling in multicellular systems. In addition, they complement those tools with biochemical and cell biological techniques to unravel the mechanism of dynamic signal encoding at the molecular level.

Scientific training and positions

Awards and fellowships

Group members

Katharina Sonnen

Group Leader

Wouter Thomas


Pascal Schulthess


Hiro Eto


Virginia Ribeiro de Andrade


Yasmine el Azhar

PhD Student

Vanessa Disela

PhD Student

Sonja Weterings

PhD Student

Marek van Oostrom

PhD Student

Jan-Daniël de Leede

PhD Student

Tomas Noordzij

PhD Student

Wilke Meijer

PhD Student

Lisa Sackmann

PhD Student

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