Developmental Biology


Prof. Dr. Andrea Vortkamp

Faculty of Biology
Center of Medical Biotechnology
University of Duisburg-Essen
Universitätsstr. 2-5
45141 Essen


Degenerative bone diseases, like osteoarthritis, and genetically induced skeletal malformations represent major challenges of modern medicine. Both may result in severe pain and mobility restrictions significantly impairing the quality of human life. To understand the molecular basis of skeletal disorders and to identify molecular therapeutic targets, our group is investigating the mechanisms regulating differentiation and growth of skeletal elements during embryonic and postnatal development. Our research is focused on the differentiation of chondrocytes in the growth plate of endochondral bones, the formation of bone tumors, and the development and maintenance of articular cartilage in the joints.

We are particularly interested in:

  • Signaling pathways regulating chondrocyte differentiation
  • Genetic and epigenetic mechanisms controlling gene expression in transient and permanent cartilage
  • The role of extracellular heparan sulfate as a regulator of growth factor signaling and tissue homeostasis
  • The molecular mechanisms leading to the degeneration of articular cartilage during osteoarthritis

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Wuelling M, Neu C, Thiesen AM, Kitanovski S, Cao Y, Lange A, Westendorf AM, Hoffmann D, Vortkamp A.
Epigenetic Mechanisms Mediating Cell State Transitions in Chondrocytes.
J Bone Miner Res. 2021 May; 36(5):968-985.

Bachvarova V, Dierker T, Esko J, Hoffmann D, Kjellen L, Vortkamp A.
Chondrocytes respond to an altered heparan sulfate composition with distinct changes of heparan sulfate structure and increased levels of chondroitin sulfate.
Matrix Biol. 2020 Nov; 93:43-59.

Grüneboom A, Hawwari I, Weidner D, Culemann S, Müller S, Henneberg S, Brenzel A, Merz S, Bornemann L, Zec K, Wuelling M, Kling L, Hasenberg M, Voortmann S, Lang S, Baum W, Ohs A, Kraff O, Quick HH, Jäger M, Landgraeber S, Dudda M, Danuser R, Stein JV, Rohde M, Gelse K, Garbe AI, Adamczyk A, Westendorf AM, Hoffmann D, Christiansen S, Engel DR, Vortkamp A, Krönke G, Herrmann M, Kamradt T, Schett G, Hasenberg A, Gunzer M.
A network of trans-cortical capillaries as mainstay for blood circulation in long bones.
Nat Metab. 2019 Feb; 1(2):236-250.

Wuelling M, Vortkamp A.
A newly discovered stem cell that keeps bones growing.
Nature. 2019 Mar; 567(7747):178-179.

Dierker T, Bachvarova V, Krause Y, Li JP, Kjellén L, Seidler DG, Vortkamp A.
Altered heparan sulfate structure in Glce(-/-) mice leads to increased Hedgehog signaling in endochondral bones.
Matrix Biol. 2016 Jan; 49:82-92.

Ehlen HW, Chinenkova M, Moser M, Munter HM, Krause Y, Gross S, Brachvogel B, Wuelling M, Kornak U, Vortkamp A.
Inactivation of anoctamin-6/Tmem16f, a regulator of phosphatidylserine scrambling in osteoblasts, leads to decreased mineral deposition in skeletal tissues.
J Bone Miner Res. 2013 Feb; 28(2):246-59.

Wuelling M, Pasdziernik M, Moll CN, Thiesen AM, Schneider S, Johannes C, Vortkamp A.
The multi zinc-finger protein Trps1 acts as a regulator of histone deacetylation during mitosis.
Cell Cycle. 2013 Jul 15; 12(14):2219-32.

Jones KB, Piombo V, Searby C, Kurriger G, Yang B, Grabellus F, Roughley PJ, Morcuende JA, Buckwalter JA, Capecchi MR, Vortkamp A, Sheffield VC.
A mouse model of osteochondromagenesis from clonal inactivation of Ext1 in chondrocytes.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Feb 2; 107(5):2054-9.

Koziel L, Kunath M, Kelly OG, Vortkamp A.
Ext1-dependent heparan sulfate regulates the range of Ihh signaling during endochondral ossification.
Dev Cell. 2004 Jun; 6(6):801-13.

Minina E, Kreschel C, Naski MC, Ornitz DM, Vortkamp A.
Interaction of FGF, Ihh/Pthlh, and BMP signaling integrates chondrocyte proliferation and hypertrophic differentiation.
Dev Cell. 2002 Sep;3(3):439-49.

Lanske B, Karaplis AC, Lee K, Luz A, Vortkamp A, Pirro A, Karperien M, Defize LH, Ho C, Mulligan RC, Abou-Samra AB, Jüppner H, Segre GV, Kronenberg HM.
PTH/PTHrP receptor in early development and Indian hedgehog-regulated bone growth.
Science. 1996 Aug 2; 273(5275):663-6.

Vortkamp A, Lee K, Lanske B, Segre GV, Kronenberg HM, Tabin CJ.
Regulation of rate of cartilage differentiation by Indian hedgehog and PTH-related protein.
Science. 1996 Aug 2; 273(5275):613-22.

Vortkamp A, Gessler M, Grzeschik KH.
GLI3 zinc-finger gene interrupted by translocations in Greig syndrome families.
Nature. 1991 Aug 8; 352(6335):539-40.
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