Genes, Development And Behavior
Department of Translational Neuroscience
Utrecht, The Netherlands

Elly Hol

Position: Professor of Gliabiology of Brain Disease (UMCU) and Professor of Biology of Glia and Neural Stem Cells (UvA)
Phone:  (+31) (0)88 75 50181
Phone secretariat: (+31) (0)88 75 68847


The research of our group is focused on the role of glial cells in brain diseases. Our overall aim is to elucidate the molecular and functional changes in glia that contribute to the pathogenesis of neurological and psychiatric diseases.


Glia are the nonneuronal cells of the central nervous system and are essential for proper brain development and healthy brain functioning. In our research we focus on four different subsets of glial cells: Astrocytes, microglia, radial glia and neurogenic glia. Radial glia and neurogenic glia act as stem cells during development and in the adult brain. Microglia are the immune cells of the brain and astrocytes support neurons, but novel functions emerge. Both astrocytes and microglia are involved in establishing, maintaining and pruning of synapses, showing that these glia are actively involved in neural communication and neurodevelopment. Furthermore, astrocytes can control cerebral blood flow and are part of the brain's waste clearance system.

In neuroscience, there has been a focus on the role of neurons, but it is becoming more and more clear that glia play important roles in CNS homeostasis and pathogenesis. In many brain diseases, including stroke and vascular dementia, microglia and astrocytes become reactive. This glial response can contribute to the cognitive and motor problems in patients suffering from these diseases. Furthermore, most brain tumours originate from deranged glia. Moreover, with the increasing evidence for crucial roles of glia in neurodevelopment, it is postulated that dysfunctioning of glia contributes to schizophrenia and autism.

Experimental strategy and key results:

Our group is particularly concerned with studying glial cells in human post-mortem brain tissue and in mouse models for brain diseases. We apply sophisticated immunological, molecular and cell biological techniques on whole brain tissue and on glia isolated from human and mouse brains.


1: Van Dijk, B.J., Vergouwen, M.D., Kelfkens, M.M., Rinkel, G.J. and Hol, E.M. Glial cell response after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage-Functional consequences and clinical implications. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol basis of Disease 1862 (2016): 492-505

2: Pekny, M., Pekna, M., Messing, A., Steinhäuser, C., Lee, J.M., Parpura, V., Hol, E.M., Sofroniew, M.V. and Verkhratsky, A. Astroglial responses as a central element in neurological diseases: towards novel therapeutic targets. Acta Neuropathol 131 (2016): 323-345..

3: Orre, M., Kamphuis, W., Osborn, L,. Jansen, A., Kooijman, L., Bossers,K., and Hol, E.M. Isolation of glia from Alzheimer's mice reveals inflammation and dysfunction. Neurobiology of aging 35 (2014): 2746-2760 .

4: Kanski R., Sneeboer, M.A.M., van Bodegraven, E.J., Sluijs, J.A., Kropff, W., Vermunt, M.W., Creyghton, M.P., De Filippis, L., Vescovi, A., Aronica, E.,  van Tijn, P., van Strien, M.E., and Hol, E.M. Histone acetylation in astrocytes suppresses GFAP and stimulates a re-organization of the intermediate filament network. Journal of Cell Science 127 (2014) 4368-4380.

5:  Moeton, M., Kanski, R. ,Stassen, O.M.,  Sluijs, J.A., Geerts, D.,  van Tijn, P., Wiche, G., van Strien, M.E., and Hol, E.M. Silencing   GFAP isoforms in astrocytoma cells disturbs laminin-dependent motility and cell adhesion. FASEB J  28 (2014) 2942-2954.

6: Van Strien, M.E., Sluijs, J.A., Reynolds, B.A., Steindler, D., Aronica, E., and Hol, E.M. Isolation of neural stem cells from the human adult subventricular zone based on expression of the cell surface marker CD271. Stem cells Translational Medicine 3 (2014) 470-480.