Brendan D Looyenga

Brendan Looyenga


  • B.S. in Biochemistry & Biotechnology, Calvin College, 2001
  • Ph.D. Cell & Molecular Biology, University of Michigan, 2006
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Van Andel Resarch Institute, 2006-2010

Thesis: Mechanism of Tumorigenesis in the Inhibin-Null Mouse
Advisor: Gary Hammer, M.D., Ph.D.

Professional History

  • 2014-present: Professor of Chemistry, Calvin College.
  • 2010-2014: Research Scientist, Lab of Systems Biology, Van Andel Research Institute 

Research and scholarship

The research focus of my lab is on how cells communicate with each other normally, and how this process of communication is disrupted in cancer and other diseases.  The signaling molecules that we specifically study are kinases, which are enzymes that transfer phosphoryl groups to proteins or metabolites using adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as a phosphoryl donor.  Many of the most important “driver mutations” in cancer result in hyperactive kinase activity, causing cells to proliferate or survive abnormally in the body.  

Our current research focus is on a subtype of kidney cancer called papillary renal cell carcinoma (pRCC).  This subtype of renal cancer accounts for about 10-15% of all kidney tumors, and is named in relationship to its propensity to form fingerlike (papillae) growths of cells.  We are interested in how the tumor cells in pRCC interact with normal cells in the kidney, particularly a kind of cell called a fibroblast.  Our research has uncovered one mechanism by which fibroblasts provide a growth factor to which cancer cells are extremely sensitive, causing them to survive and grow abnormally.  We are continuing to study the secreted signals between cancer cells and fibroblasts, as well as how cell-cell contacts between these cells facilitate the behavior of pRCC.


Undergraduate student names appear in bold.

1. Beuschlein F, Looyenga B, Bleasdale S, Mutch C, Bavers D, Parlow A, Nilson J, & Hammer G.  2003.  Activin Induces X-zone Apoptosis That Inhibits Luteinizing-Hormone Dependent Adrenocortical Tumor Formation in Inhibin-Deficient Mice.  Molecular & Cellular Biology 23(11): 3951–3964. PMID: 12748296

2. Robertson S, Schoumans J, Looyenga B, Yuhas J, Zylstra C, Koeman J, Swiatek P, Teh BT, & Williams B.  2005.  Spectral karyotyping of sarcomas and fibroblasts derived from Ink4a/Arf
deficient mice reveals chromosomal instability in vitro.  Int. J. Oncology 26(3): 629–634.  PMID: 15703817

3. Johnsen I, Slawik M, Shapiro I, Hartmann M, Wudy , Looyenga B, Hammer G, Reinke M, & Beuschlein F.  2006.  Gonadectomy in mice of the inbred strain CE/J induces proliferation of subcapsular adrenal cells expressing gonadal marker genes.  Journal of Endocrinology 190(1): 47–57.  PMID: 16837610

4. Looyenga B, & Hammer G.  2006.  Origin and Identity of Tumors in Inhibin Knockout Mice: Implications for Cellular Plasticity in the Adrenal Cortex.  Molecular Endocrinology 20(11): 2848– 2863. PMID: 16873442

5. Looyenga B & Hammer G.  2007.  Genetic Removal of Smad3 from Inhibin-null Mice Attenuates Tumor Progression by Uncoupling Extracellular Mitogenic Signals from the Cell Cycle Machinery. Molecular Endocrinology  21(10): 2440–2457.  PMID: 17652186

6. Looyenga B, Wiater E, Vale W & Hammer G. 2010. Inhibin-A Antagonizes TGFβ2 Signaling by Downregulating Cell Surface Expression of the TGFβ Co-receptor Betaglycan. Molecular Endocrinology 24(3): 608-20.  PMID: 20160125.

7. Looyenga B, Furge K, Dykema K, Farber L, Swiatek P, Koeman J, Giordano T, West A, Resau J, Teh BT & MacKeigan J. 2011.  Chromosomal Amplification of LRRK2 is Required for Oncogenic MET Signaling in Papillary Renal and Thyroid Carcinomas.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 108(4): 1439-44.  PMID: 21220347.

8. Sian KR, Xu Y, Looyenga B, Wu CL, Tremblay ML, Xu HE, & MacKeigan JP. 2011. Identification of PTPsigma as an autophagic phosphatase. Journal of Cell Science. 1 Mar 2011.  124(Pt 5):812-9.  PMID: 21303930.

9. Ding Y, Huang D, Zhang Z, Smith J, Petillo D, Looyenga BD, Feenstra K, Mackeigan JP, Furge KA, Teh BT. Combined gene expression profiling and RNAi screening in clear cell renal cell carcinoma identify PLK1 and other therapeutic kinase targets. Cancer Research. 1 Aug 2011. 71(15):5225-34.  PMID: 21642374.

10. Looyenga B, Hutchings D, Cherni I, Kingsley C, Weiss GJ, & MacKeigan JP.  2012.  STAT3 is Activated by JAK2 Independent of Key Oncogenic Driver Mutations in Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma.  PLoS ONE.  Feb 2012. 7(2):e30820.  PMID: 22319590.

11. Looyenga B & MacKeigan JP.  2012.  Characterization of Differential Protein Tethering at the Plasma Membrane in Response to Epidermal Growth Factor Signaling. Journal of Proteome Research. 2012 May. (Epub ahead of print).  PMID: 22559174.

12. Looyenga B, Resau J & MacKeigan J.  2012. Cytokine receptor-like factor 1 (CRLF1) protects against 6-hydroxydopamine toxicity independent of the gp130/JAK signaling pathway.  PLoS ONE.  20 June 2013. 8(6):e66548. PMID: 23818941.

13. Lanning N, Looyenga B, Kauffman A, Niemi N, Sudderth J, Deberardinis R, Mackeigan J. 2014.  A Mitochondrial RNAi Screen Defines Cellular Bioenergetic Determinants and Identifies an Adenylate Kinase as a Key Regulator of ATP Levels. Cell Reports. 8 May 2014. 7(3):907-17. PMID: 24767988

14. Looyenga B, VanOpstall C, Lee Z, Bell J, Lodge E, Wrobel K, Arnoys E, Louters L.  2016.  Determination of GLUT1 oligomerization parameters using Bioluminescence Förster Resonance Energy Transfer.  Scientific Reports. 2016 Jun 30;6:29130. PMID: 27357903


2003 Excellence in Teaching Award, Office of Research and Graduate Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

2005 ENDO 2005 Means Basic Science Student Award, The Endocrine Society

2005–2006 Rackham Society of Fellows Pre-doctoral Fellowship, Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

2006 Endocrine Society Travel Grant Award, ENDO 2006

2007 Student Award for an Outstanding Publication in Molecular Endocrinology

2010-2012 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F32), National Institute of Neurological Disease & Stroke (NINDS)

2014-2016 National Institutes of Health Research Award - 1 R15 DK081931 (co-PI with Larry, Louters & Eric Arnoys). “The Mechanism for the Acute Activation of GLUT1”

2015-2017 National Institutes of Health Research Award - 1 R15 CA192094 (PI). “Cooperative Cellular Transformation by LRRK2 and MET in Renal Neoplasms


  • Course code:
  • Credits:
  • Semester:
  • Department: