Cells need to communicate with each other in order to develop properly, and this process is called cell signaling. The interest of the Hoogendoorn group is the Hedgehog signaling pathway, which is essential for correct embryonic development, but can also lead to cancer when dysregulated. It is therefore very important to understand the process of signal transduction and to develop methodologies to influence the Hedgehog pathway. In our lab we use organic chemistry to make small-molecule inhibitors of the Hedgehog pathway. We then apply these molecules to cells to study their effects in a cellular context and to understand their mechanism of action. Our work is very interdisciplinary and techniques used in the lab range from synthetic organic chemistry to cell biology and genetics.
Fig 1. The natural product cyclopamine was found to be a Hedgehog signaling inhibitor binding to the protein Smoothened. When ingested by pregnant sheep, this led to lamb with one eye (cyclopia), illustrating the role of Hedgehog signaling in development.
University of Geneva, Sciences II Sascha Hoogendoorn, professor
Department of Organic Chemistry
30, quai Ernest-Ansermet
1211 Genève 4