Joris de Wit Lab

Research focus

​Our brain is made up of billions of neurons that are precisely connected into neural circuits, forming an immensely complex network that encodes our thoughts, memories and personalities. Cognitive disorders such as autism and schizophrenia are thought to somehow result from changes in the connectivity of this network. Our lab aims to unravel the molecular mechanisms that control neuronal connectivity in developing circuits, and determine how perturbations in this process affect cognitive function.

During brain development, neurons connect with specific target neurons through highly specialized cell-cell contacts called synapses. Synapses are central to the functioning of the brain, and a loss of synaptic connectivity is thought to underlie many cognitive disorders. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that control the formation and maintenance of synaptic connections is therefore essential in order to gain insight into these disorders. However, many fundamental questions about circuit formation are still unanswered. How do neurons recognize their appropriate partners? How are nascent cell-cell contacts differentiated into functional synapses? And how is it that synapses between different types of neurons are structurally and functionally distinct? 

To address these questions, we use a combination of proteomics, neuronal cell culture, conditional mouse genetics, viral vectors, electrophysiology and anatomical technques. With this approach, we aim to obtain new insights into the molecular mechanisms that establish precise synaptic connectivity under normal and pathological conditions. Ultimately, these insights will guide the development of new strategies for improved diagnostics and treatment.​


Secreted amyloid-beta precursor protein functions as a GABABR1a ligand to modulate synaptic transmissionRice H De Malmazet D Schreurs A Frere S Van Molle I Volkov A Creemers E Vertkin I Nys J Ranaivoson F Comoletti D Savas J Remaut H Balschun D Wierda K Slutsky I Farrow K De Strooper B* De Wit J*SCIENCE, 363, eaao4827, 2019* or °: authors contributed equally
A Modular Organization of LRR Protein-Mediated Synaptic Adhesion Defines Synapse IdentitySchröder A Vanderlinden J Vints K Ribeiro L Vennekens K Gunko N Wierda K* De Wit J*NEURON, 99, 329-344 e7, 2018* or °: authors contributed equally
An Input-Specific Orphan Receptor GPR158-HSPG Interaction Organizes Hippocampal Mossy Fiber-CA3 SynapsesCondomitti Giuseppe Wierda Keimpe Schröder Anna Rubio Abejón Sara Esmeralda Vennekens Kristel Orlandi C Martemyanov K. A Gunko Natalia Savas J. N de Wit JorisNEURON, 100, 201-215 e9, 2018
Specification of synaptic connectivity by cell surface interactionsde Wit Joris Ghosh ANATURE REVIEWS NEUROSCIENCE, 17, 4, 2016
The Sorting Receptor SorCS1 Regulates Trafficking of Neurexin and AMPA ReceptorsSavas J Ribeiro L Wierda K Wright R Denardo-Wilke L Rice H Chamma I Wang Y Zemla R Lavallee-Adam M Vennekens K O'sullivan M Antonios J Hall E Thoumine O Attie A Yates J* Ghosh A De Wit J*NEURON, 87, 764-80, 2015* or °: authors contributed equally

Job openings


VIB welcomes new Marie Curie fellows

04/03/2019 - Each year, the EU launches calls for postdoc research fellowships through the Marie Sklodowksa-Curie Actions. Fellowships provided through these actions support researchers regardless of age & nationality.

Researchers answer decades-old question about protein found in Alzheimer’s brain plaques

10/01/2019 - A team of scientists at VIB and KU Leuven led by professors Joris de Wit and Bart De Strooper has now uncovered that this amyloid precursor protein modulates neuronal signal transmission through binding to a specific receptor.

Making the right connections

02/10/2018 - VIB-KU Leuven researchers have uncovered a new molecular interaction that governs the formation of specific functional connections between two types of neurons.

Neuronal ‘barcodes’ shape complex networks in the brain

05/07/2018 - Joris de Wit and his team (VIB-KU Leuven) unraveled a molecular code that determines the shape, location and function of connections between individual neurons. These findings could help us better understand brain disorders such as autism.

New insights in pathological mechanism that causes dysfunctional synapses

20/08/2015 - Genetic analysis of human patients has shown that mutations in genes involved in synaptic communication can drive neuropsychiatric and neurological diseases such as autism spectrum disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.

Joris de Wit

Joris de Wit

Research area(s)

Model organism(s)


​PhD: Netherlands Institute for Brain Research, Amsterdam, '04
Postdoc: Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research (CNCR), The Netherlands, '04-'06
Postdoc: University of California San Diego (UCSD), US,  '06-'10
Assistant Project Scientist, University of California San Diego (UCSD), US, '10-'12
VIB Group Leader since January 2013

Contact Info

VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease ResearchO&N 4, 6e verdCampus GasthuisbergHerestraat 49, bus 602 3000 LEUVENRoute description