Corette Wierenga: Synaptic Physiology

CVResearchLab membersPublications


CoretteWierenga UU 100Corette J. Wierenga
Cell Biology, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University
Kruytgebouw, room N511
Padualaan 8, 3584 CH Utrecht
The Netherlands
Fax. +31-(0)30-2532659


Curriculum Vitae

Corette Wierenga studied physics at the VU University Amsterdam and received her PhD in neurobiology at the University of Amsterdam in 2002. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Gina Turrigano at Brandeis University in Waltham (MA), USA (2002-2006) and with Prof. Tobias Bonhoeffer at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, Germany (2006-2011). In 2011 she joined the Division of Cell Biology at the Department of Biology at Utrecht University, where she started an independent research group, supported by the NWO VIDI and Aspasia awards in 2012. She became Associate Professor in 2015.


Studying synapses (article International Innovation jan 2015)

Issue 170 Corette Wierenga Article Spread 2 1
Article Internation Innovation jan2015 (high resolution version, click here)


Research summary

Our brain consists of millions of neurons, interconnected through synaptic connections. Synapses are not static, but highly dynamic structures which respond to experience by continuously adjusting their strength and number. Neuronal circuits in our brain have an enormous capacity to adapt during development, when learning, or in response to injury or disease. In a healthy brain, changes in excitatory and inhibitory synapses are coordinated to preserve neuronal and network function, but the cellular mechanisms of this synaptic coordination are not well understood. Synaptic dysfunction and impaired coordination between excitatory and inhibitory signals are at the basis of many neurodevelopmental and neurological disorders, including autism and early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

We previously found that new inhibitory synapses are generated by the emergence of new boutons at locations where inhibitory axons are in close contact with dendrites. Our live imaging data shows that inhibitory synapses are highly dynamic structures, appearing, disappearing and reappearing on a time scale of tens of minutes. These dynamics facilitate rapid adjustments of inhibitory axons in response to activity or other environmental signals.

Electrophysiology: patch clamp recording of inhibitory synaptic currents in CA1 pyramidal cell.

We are using two-photon microscopy to visualize inhibitory and excitatory synapses, axons and dendrites in hippocampal organotypic cultures and acute slices. Two-photon microscopy provides high resolution (< 1 μm) images with minimal photo damage, allowing repeated imaging of small subcellular structures in intact tissue. We use molecular techniques to manipulate or label specific proteins and/or cell types and combine live imaging with electrophysiology to study inhibitory synapses in these slices.
We study the molecular processes underlying inhibitory synapse formation and plasticity, with a special emphasis on interactions with excitatory synapses within dendrites. We use our fundamental knowledge on synaptic plasticity and brain development to collaborate with clinical and industrial partners to improve the neurobiological understanding of brain disorders.


Two-photon microscopy: GABAergic axons (green) make inhibitory synapses on dendrites of CA1 pyramidal cell (red).

Current research lines
–    regulation of structural plasticity of GABAergic synapses
–    coordination and integration of excitation and inhibition within dendrites
–    inhibitory defects in neurodevelopmental and other brain disorders


Lab members

Bart Jongbloets

PhD students:
Hai Yin Hu
Cátia Perreiras-Frias (together with Casper Hoogenraad, UU)
Jian Liang
Carlijn Peerboom
Lotte Herstel
Zehra Kazmi

René van Dorland

Master students:
Claudia Amboni
Lisa Bauer
Asier Segura Elorza

Former labmembers:
Azar Omrani (now postdoc at UMCU)
Daniëlle Counotte (now at Danone Research)
Renske Taggenbrock
Bas van Bommel (now PhD student at ZMNH, Germany)
Feline Lindhout (now PhD student at Hoogenraad lab, UU)
Tom Bresser
Lisa Scheefhals
Matthijs van Kesteren
Elske Bijvank
Dennis Kruijssen
Marvin Ruiter
Gisela Espriu Aguado
Ate Bijlsma


Publications (selection)

Experimental papers:

Hu HY, Dennis L.H. Kruijssen DLH, Frias CP, Rózsa B, Hoogenraad CC, Wierenga CJ (2019) Endocannabinoid signaling mediates local dendritic coordination between excitatory and inhibitory synapses. Cell Reports in press

Frias CP, Liang J, Bresser T, Scheefhals L, van Kesteren M, van Dorland R, Hu HY, Bodzeta A, van Bergen en Henegouwen PMP, Hoogenraad CC, Wierenga CJ (2019) Semaphorin4D induces inhibitory synapse formation by rapid  stabilization of presynaptic boutons via MET co-activation. Journal of Neuroscience 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0215-19.201

Müllner F, Wierenga CJ*, Bonhoeffer T* (2015) Precision of inhibition: Dendritic inhibition by individual GABAergic synapses on hippocampal pyramidal cells is confined in space and time. Neuron 87, 576-589. * equal contributions

Schuemann A, Klawiter A, Bonhoeffer T, Wierenga CJ (2013) Structural plasticity of GABAergic axons is regulated by network activity and GABAA receptor activation. Frontiers in Neural Circuits 7: 113.

Keck T, Scheuss V, Jacobsen RI, Wierenga CJ, Eysel UT, Bonhoeffer T, Hübener M. Loss of sensory input causes rapid structural changes of inhibitory neurons in adult mouse visual cortex. Neuron. 2011 Sep 8; 71(5):869-82.

Wierenga CJ, Müllner FE, Rinke I, Keck T, Stein V, Bonhoeffer T. Molecular and electrophysiological characterization of GFP-expressing CA1 interneurons in GAD65-GFP mice. PLoS One. 2010 Dec 31; 5(12):e15915.

Wierenga CJ, Becker N, Bonhoeffer T. GABAergic synapses are formed without the involvement of dendritic protrusions. Nat Neurosci. 2008 Sep; 11(9):1044-52.


Schulte JT, Wierenga CJ*, Bruining H* (2018) Chloride transporters and GABA polarity in developmental, neurological and psychiatric conditions. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 90: 260-271. * co-senior author

Wierenga CJ (2017) Live imaging of inhibitory axons: Synapse formation as a dynamic trial-and-error process. Brain Research Bulletin 127: 43-49.

Frias CP, Wierenga CJ (2013) Activity-dependent adaptations in inhibitory axons. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 7: 219.

Vogels TP, Froemke RC, Doyon N, Gilson M, Haas JS, Liu R, Maffei A, Miller P, Wierenga CJ, Woodin MA, Zenke F and Sprekeler H (2013) Inhibitory synaptic plasticity: spike timing-dependence and putative network function. Frontiers in Neural Circuits 7: 119.


Vinkers C, van Geelen S, Duijff SN, Sanne Nijhof S, Achterberg M, van der Net J, R. Veltkamp R, Grootenhuis M, van de Putte EM, Hillegers H, van der Brug AW, Wierenga CJ, Benders M, Engels RCME, Van der Ent C, Vanderschuren L, Lesscher H (2018) Healthy play, better coping: The importance of play for the development of children in health and disease. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 95: 421-429.

Niculescu D, Michaelsen-Preusse K, Güner Ü, van Dorland R, Wierenga CJ, Lohmann C (2018) A BDNF-mediated push-pull plasticity mechanism for synaptic clustering. Cell Reports 24: 2063-2074.

Schätzle P, Esteves da Silva M, Tas RP, Katrukha EA, Hu HY, Wierenga CJ, Kapitein LC, Hoogenraad CC (2018) Activity-dependent actin remodeling at the base of dendritic spines promotes microtubule entry. Current Biology 28: 2081-2093.

Harschnitz O, van den Berg LH, Johansen LE, Jansen MD, Kling S, Vieira De Sá R, Vlam L, van Rheenen W, Karst H, Wierenga CJ, Pasterkamp RJ, van der Pol WL (2016) Autoantibody pathogenicity in a multifocal motor neuropathy iPSC-derived model. Annals of Neurology 80: 71-88.

Kellner Y, Fricke S, Kramer S, Iobbi C, Wierenga CJ, Schwab ME, Korte M, Zagrebelsky M (2016) Nogo-A controls structural plasticity at dendritic spines by rapidly modulating actin dynamics. Hippocampus 26: 816-831.

Lenz M, Galanis C, Müller-Dahlhaus F, Opitz A, Wierenga CJ, Szabó G, Ziemann U, Deller T, Klaus Funke, and Vlachos A (2015) Repetitive magnetic stimulation induces plasticity of inhibitory synapses. Nature Communications 7: 10020.

Esteves da Silva M, Adrian M, Schätzle P, Lipka J, Watanabe T, Cho S, Futai K, Wierenga CJ, Kapitein LC, Hoogenraad CC (2015) Positioning of AMPA receptor-containing endosomes regulates synapse architecture. Cell Reports 13: 933-943.

Gomis-Rüth S, Stiess M, Wierenga CJ, Meyn L, Bradke F (2014) Single cell axotomy of cultured hippocampal neurons integrated in neuronal circuits. Nature Protocols 9: 1028-1037.