Brendan D Looyenga

Brendan D Looyenga


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

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

Professional History

  • Associate Professor of Chemistry, Calvin University (College) - 2020-2021
  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Calvin University (College) - 2013-2020
  • Research Scientist, Lab of Systems Biology, Van Andel Research Institute - 2010-2014


Prof. Looyenga came to Calvin in 2013 through a combined position with the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, where he was serving as a staff scientist. Though his professional degree is in Cell & Molecular Biology, his interest in cancer metabolism is very biochemistry-oriented and therefore made him a good professional fit for the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department at Calvin University. Since coming to Calvin, he has mostly taught in the areas of pre-health chemistry for nursing and kinesiology students and upper-level biochemistry. In 2015, the joint position came to an end and he began full-time work at Calvin. He has been at Calvin now for eight years and was granted tenure in 2020.

For Prof. Looyenga, one of the attractions of coming to Calvin was the opportunity to collaborate with other faculty members in research and curriculum development. Though he had taught as an adjunct professor at several institutions prior to Calvin, this was his first opportunity to be a “full-time” educator. He is very thankful for the mentorship and support he received from colleagues early on in his teaching career, which has benefited greatly from their experience and direction. The collaborative environment at Calvin is a great benefit to students and faculty alike! If you look at the publication list below, you’ll see that many of papers have multiple student and faculty authors, which demonstrate the type of cooperation that is part of the Chemistry and Biochemistry department culture.

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

Bouwer MF, Hamilton KE, Jonker PB, Kuiper SR, Louters LL, Looyenga BD. "NMS-873 Functions as a Dual Inhibitor of Mitochondrial Oxidative Phosphorylation". Biochimie. doi: 2021. 

Lodge EK, Bell JD, Roloff EM, Hamilton KE, Louters LL, Looyenga BD. "Pharmacologic Inhibition of N-linked Glycan Trimming with Kifunensine Disrupts GLUT1 Trafficking and Glucose Uptake". Biochimie. 174:18-29. PMID: 32298759. Jul 2020.

Rylaarsdam LE, Johnecheck GN, Looyenga BD, Louters LL. 2019. "GLUT1 is Associated with Sphingolipid-Organized, Cholesterol-Independent Domains in L929 Mouse Fibroblast Cells". Biochimie. 162:88-96. PMID: 30980844, Jul 2019.

Lanning NJ, VanOpstall C, Goodall ML, MacKeigan JP, Looyenga BD. LRRK2 "Deficiency Impairs Trans-Golgi to Lysosome Trafficking and Endocytic Cargo Degradation in Human Renal Proximal Tubule Epithelial Cells". American Journal of Physiology: Renal Physiology. 315(5):F1465-1477. PMID: 30089035. 1 Nov 2018.

Hamilton KE, Rekman JF, Gunnink LK, Busscher BM, Scott JL, Tidball AM, Stehouwer NR, Johnecheck GN, Looyenga BD, Louters LL. "Quercetin Inhibits Glucose Transport by Binding to an Exofacial Site on GLUT1". Biochimie 151, S0300-9084(18)30143-3. PMID: 29857184. 29 May 2018.

Gunnink LK, Busscher BM, Wodarek JA, Rosette KA, Strohbehn LE, Looyenga BD, Louters LL. "Caffeine Inhibition of GLUT1 is Dependent on the Activation State of the Transporter", Biochimie 137 (2017) 99-105

Looyenga B, VanOpstall C,Lee Z, Bell J, Lodge E, Wrobel K, Arnoys E, Louters L. "Determination of GLUT1 Oligomerization Parameters Using Bioluminescence Förster Resonance Energy Transfer".  Scientific Reports. 6:29130. PMID: 2735790. 30 June 2016.

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

Looyenga B, Resau J & MacKeigan J. "Cytokine Receptor-like Factor 1 (CRLF1) Protects Against 6-hydroxydopamine Toxicity Independent of the GP130/JAK Signaling Pathway".  PLoS ONE. 8(6):e66548. PMID: 23818941. 20 June 2013.

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

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

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. 71(15):5225-34.  PMID: 21642374. 1 Aug 2011.

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

Looyenga B, Furge K, Dykema K, Farber L, Swiatek P, Koeman J, Giordano T, West A, Resau J, Teh BT & MacKeigan J. "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. 2011.

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

Looyenga B & Hammer G. "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. 2007.

Looyenga B, & Hammer G. "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. 2006. 

Johnsen I, Slawik M, Shapiro I, Hartmann M, Wudy , Looyenga B, Hammer G, Reinke M, & Beuschlein F. "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. 2006. 

Robertson S, Schoumans J,Looyenga B, Yuhas J, Zylstra C, Koeman J, Swiatek P, Teh BT, & Williams B. "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. 2005.

Beuschlein F, Looyenga B, Bleasdale S, Mutch C, Bavers D, Parlow A, Nilson J, & Hammer G. "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. 2003.


  • Office of Research and Graduate Studies, University of Michigan- Ann ArborExcellence in Teaching Award,  - 2003
  • The Endocrine Society, ENDO 2005 Means Basic Science Student Award - 2005
  • Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan-Ann ArborRackham Society of Fellows Pre-doctoral Fellowship - 2005-2006
  • ENDO 2006Endocrine Society Travel Grant Award  - 2006
  • Student Award for an Outstanding Publication in Molecular Endocrinology - 2007
  • National Institute of Neurological Disease & Stroke (NINDS)Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F32) - 2010-2012
  • National Institutes of Health Research Award - 1 R15 DK081931 (co-PI with Larry, Louters & Eric Arnoys). “The Mechanism for the Acute Activation of GLUT1” - 2014-2016
  • National Institutes of Health Research Award - 1 R15 CA192094 (PI). “Cooperative Cellular Transformation by LRRK2 and MET in Renal Neoplasms - 2015-2017
  • Spectrum Health Office of Research Award (subrecipient), "A Potential Utility for GLUT1 Targeted Therapy in Osteosarcoma" ($6,500) - 2016-2017

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