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Our brain is an intriguing organ that gradually becomes more active and refined during its development.
It is not surprising that disruption of brain development through genetic and environmental factors leads to neurodevelopmental diseases such as autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia.

Since proper neurodevelopment is driven by the complex interplay between neurons and microglia, we focus on the impact of genetic and environmental factors on these cells. A genetic risk factor for autism spectrum disorder, directly acting at neuronal networks, is the impaired glycine receptor signaling in the brain.

Environmental factors impact the highly dynamic immune cells of the brain: microglia. Using molecular, cellular and behavioral approaches, we aim to understand the normal and pathological brain development in order to identify new targets with therapeutic potential  for neurodevelopmental disorders.

Prof. dr. Bert Brône 


Prof. dr. Jean-Michel Rigo


Microglia research line

dr. Yeranddy A. Alpizar 
Project title: Molecular mechanisms of microglial dynamics

Sofie Kessels
Project title: Microglial dynamics in neurodevelopmental disorders

Jolien Beeken
Project title: Molecular mechanisms of microglial dynamics

Glycine receptor research line

dr. Elisabeth Piccart
Project title: Glycinergic modulation of midbrain signal integration in schizophrenia

Jens Devoght
Project title: Glycinergic modulation of midbrain signal integration in schizophrenia

Öykü Uslu
Project title: Subcellular localisation and function of glycine receptor alpha 2

In collaboration:

Ben Rombaut
Project title: Microglial dynamics in neurodevelopmental disorders (co-supervisor)

Rut Mazon Cabrera
Project title: Autoantibodies in Autism spectrum disorders (co-supervisor)

Keerthana Ramanathan
Project title: Molecular mechanisms of microglial dynamics in neurodevelopmental disorders (co-supervisor)


  • Cell and brain slice electrophysiology,
  • Time lapse imaging in acute brain slices
  • High-end imaging techniques
  • Optogenetics


  • Migration and phagocytosis assays
  • Flow cytometry


  • Animal behavioral tests
  • Stereotactic surgery

Both authors contributed equally

Smolders SMT, Kessels S, Vangesewinkel T, Rigo JM, Legendre P and Brone B. Microglia: Brain cells on the move. Progress in Neurobiology. (2019); [IF: 10,568 (2018)].

Molchanova SM, Comhair J, Karadurmus D, Piccart E, Harvey RJ, Rigo JM, Schiffmann SN, §Brone B and §Gall D. Tonically active alpha2 subunit-containing glycine receptors regulate the excitability of striatal medium spiny neurons. Front Mol Neurosci. (2018); 10 442 [IF: 3,720].

Comhair J, Devoght J, Morelli G, Harvey RJ, Briz V, Borrie SC, Bagni C, Rigo JM, Schiffmann SN, Gall D, §Brone B and §Molchanova SM. Alpha2-containing glycine receptors promote neonatal spontaneous activity of striatal medium spiny neurons and support maturation of glutamatergic inputs. Front Mol Neurosci. (2018); 11 380 [IF: 3,720].

Smolders SM, Swinnen N, Kessels S, Arnauts K, Smolders S, Le Bras B, Rigo JM, Legendre P and Brone B. Age-specific function of alpha5beta1 integrin in microglial migration during early colonization of the developing mouse cortex. Glia. (2017); 65 (7): 1072-1088 [IF: 5,846].

Morelli G, Avila A, Ravanidis S, Aourz N, Neve RL, Smolders I, Harvey RJ, §Rigo JM, §Nguyen L and §Brone B. Cerebral cortical circuitry formation requires functional glycine receptors. Cereb Cortex. (2017); 27 (3): 1863-1877 [IF: 6,559].


In collaboration

Morelli G, Even A, Gladwyn-Ng I, Le Bail R, Shilian M, Godin JD, Peyre E, Hassan BA, Besson A, Rigo JM, Weil M, Brone B and Nguyen L. P27(kip1) modulates axonal transport by regulating alpha-tubulin acetyltransferase 1 stability. Cell Rep. (2018); 23 (8): 2429-2442 [IF: 7,815].

Even A, Morelli G, Broix L, Scaramuzzino C, Turchetto S, Gladwyn-Ng I, Le Bail R, Shilian M, Freeman S, Magiera MM, Jijumon AS, Krusy N, Malgrange B, Brone B, Dietrich P, Dragatsis I, Janke C, Saudou F, Weil M and Nguyen L. Atat1-enriched vesicles promote microtubule acetylation via axonal transport. Sci Adv. (2019); 5 (12): eaax2705 [IF: 12.804 (2018)].

Stancu IC, Cremers N, Vanrusselt H, Couturier J, Vanoosthuyse A, Kessels S, Lodder C, Brone B, Huaux F, Octave JN, Terwel D and Dewachter I. Aggregated tau activates nlrp3-asc inflammasome exacerbating exogenously seeded and non-exogenously seeded tau pathology in vivo. Acta Neuropathol. (2019); 137 (4): 599-617 [IF: 18,174 (2018)].

Torre-Muruzabal T, Devoght J, Van den Haute C, Brone B, Van der Perren A and Baekelandt V. Chronic nigral neuromodulation aggravates behavioral deficits and synaptic changes in an alpha-synuclein based rat model for parkinson's disease. Acta Neuropathol Com. (2019); 7 (1): [IF: 5.883 (2019)].

Play the Microglia-game!