Cornelis (Cok) Grimmelikhuijzen
My research interests are the molecular neurobiology, molecular endocrinology, and the functional and comparative genomics of invertebrates. As model systems I use two animal groups, namely cnidarians and insects.
I have chosen cnidarians, because they are the lowest animal group (phylum) with a nervous system, and because they are simple and can be used as model systems, e.g., by developmental biologists. Furthermore, cnidarians occupy a very basal position in the phylogenetic tree of animals (before the split of protostomes and deuterostomes). Cnidarians, therefore, are crucial for our understanding of the evolution of body plans and nervous systems. In cnidarians, we investigate the structure of neuropeptides, neuropeptide biosynthesis, neuropeptide receptors, and neuropeptide actions. This molecular and cellular work is basic for our understanding of the functioning of present-day cnidarians, but it also gives us insights in the evolution of the first nervous (and endocrine) systems.
Insects are the largest animal group on earth (75% of all animal species are insects). They are economically and ecologically extremely important, because most flowering plants depend on insects for their pollination. But insects can also be severe pests, destroying about 30% of our annual crop and be vectors (intermediate pathogen carriers) for serious diseases, such as malaria, sleeping sickness, Dengue fever, yellow fever, and elephantiasis. All this makes insects and the study of insects very important. At present, there are highly exciting developments occurring within the field of insect research, because the genomes from a very large number (5k) of insects and other arthropod species have recently been sequenced, or are in the process of being sequenced. The genomic databases of these arthropods are goldmines, because they contain the information of all proteins and, thereby, of all biochemical and physiological processes that occur in an arthropod.
Of all proteins in insects, I am especially interested in neuropeptide receptors (which are G protein-coupled receptors) and their corresponding ligands, because these proteins (and peptides) play a central role in the physiology of insects, i.e., they occupy a high “hierarchic” position in the steering and coordination of important processes such as reproduction, development and behavior. Furthermore, G protein-coupled receptors are excellent drug targets and one of the possible applications of our basic research program might be the future development of a new specific and environmentally safe insecticide that acts selectively on a certain pest insect.
Our laboratory wants to identify and functionally characterize all major groups of neuropeptide receptors and their ligands in Drosophila and other arthropods with a sequenced genome. We expect that our program will drastically advance our understanding of arthropods, because it will give us a whole new view on arthropod endocrinology. The genomic sequence of each arthropod represents a window into arthropod evolution. Our project, therefore, will also give us a wealth of information on neuropeptide receptor evolution and receptor-ligand co-evolution.
Activities for scientific organisations
I am an elected member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters since 2000, and former secretary and president (1997-2003) of the Danish Biological Society (Biologisk Selskab) in Copenhagen. Furthermore, I am regular reviewer for the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Bonn), Heisenberg Programm (Bonn), Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds (Stuttgart), Human Frontier Science Program Organisation (Strasbourg), Swedish Research Council Formas (Stockholm), Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (Den Haag), Biologisch Onderzoek Nederland (Den Haag), Stichting Levenswetenschappen (Den Haag), Swiss National Science Foundation (Bern), Fonds zur Föderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung (Wien), Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (Prague), Czech Science Foundation (Prague), Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (Budapest), Belgian Ministry of Education (Brussels), Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Vlaanderen (Brussels), Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (Brussels), The Wellcome Trust (London), Research Councils UK (London), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (Swindon, UK), Research Grants Council (Hong Kong), National Science Foundation of China (Peking), Foundation for Research Development (Pretoria), Times Higher Education (Philadelphia), and Vanderbilt University (Nashville, USA). In addition, I am reviewer for a very large number of international scientific journals, among them PNAS and Science, Reviewing Editor of Frontiers in Endocrinology, and Editorial Board Member of Scientific Data (Nature.com).
Ranking, Research, and Teaching
Ranked #36 among the best researchers in Denmark within the disciplines "Biology and Biochemistry"https://research.com/scientists-rankings/biology-and-biochemistry/dk
Publications: 200 full papers. Invited lectures on international scientific meetings and institutions: 121. Google Scholar citation index; 18,489 x cited; H-index: 69. Web of Science citation index: 14,390 x cited; H-index: 60. Completed research supervision of 73 master students, 13 Ph.D. students, and 10 postdocs. I am teaching a high level course on molecular neurobiology (7½ ECTS) for about 100 students yearly, see: https://kurser.ku.dk/course/nbik14034u
About 25 interviews in radio, television, or newspapers. Examples are given below:
Molecular neurobiology, molecular endocrinology, GPCRs, neuropeptides, biogenic amines