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PIRSON Isabelle


Institute of Interdisciplinary Research in human and molecular Biology

IRIBHM is part of the Medical School of the Univerité Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and one of the largest research structures of the university.
Founded in the nineteen sixties with the aim of applying an interdisciplinary approach to the study of thyroid pathophysiology, the Institute has thrived over the years into a number of independent groups with diversifying research interests. Presently, about 130 researchers and technicians are working in the Institute over a range of subjects encompassing signal transduction, development, neuroscience, and cancer, using cell and molecular biology approaches. Staff researchers include physicians, physicists, bioinformaticians, (bio)chemists and biologists. The activities of IRIBHM are mainly taking place on the Erasme campus of ULB, in the suburb of Brussels, although the Institute also contributes to the Institut de Biologie Moléculaire et Médicale (IBMM) on the Gosselies campus. The heavy equipment is common to the whole Institute and often shared with other groups of the campus as technical platforms. This includes genomics, proteomics, transgenesis, FACS and confocal microscopy facilities.


Metabolism of phosphoinositides

The work of the group consists in the definition at the molecular level of the mechanisms and enzymes involved in the signal termination reaction of new important intracellular molecules. The defined mechanisms, the cloning of new enzymes such as InsP3 3-kinases, 5-phosphatases, SHIP1 and SHIP2 have introduced new concepts and new targets in pharmacology. Loss of SHIP2 in mice leads to increased sensitivity to insulin. 

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs)

After having pioneered the cloning by homology of rhodopsin-like GPCRs in the late eighties, the Institute has built expertise in the study of a variety of GPCR subfamilies. These include mainly the glycoprotein hormone receptors, receptors for chemokines and other leucocyte chemoattractants, adenosine receptors, P2Y nucleotide receptors, cannabinoid receptors. Studies include structure-function relationships (glycoprotein hormone receptors, chemokine receptors, purinergic receptors), regulation of downstream cascades and gene expression by microarrays (leucocyte receptors), in vivo phenotypic studies of mice with invalidated receptor genes (adenosine A2a receptor, cannabinoid CB1 receptor, prolactin-releasing peptide receptor, P2Y4, P2Y6 and P2Y13 receptors, orphan receptors). The group studies also GPCR dimerization and the pharmacological and functional consequences of this process. In addition, a strong emphasis is put on the identification of the natural agonists of a wide diversity of orphan GPCRs, and the functional characterization of these receptors in physiology, human diseases and animal models.