Esther M. Verheyen

Molecular Biology & Biochemistry

Areas of interest

In the Verheyen lab we use molecular, genetic and biochemical approaches to understand organismal growth and patterning. Specifically, we are interested in how cells control their growth and how certain tissues regulate their pattern formation. To do this, we use Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly, as a genetic model organism.

Our studies of Drosophila development allow us to ask questions about how cells respond to cues from neighboring cells. We have focused our efforts on two protein kinases that regulate cellular processes. These kinases, Nemo/Nlk and Hipk, both act during many stages of development and are essential for organismal survival. They exert their effect through regulation of key evolutionarily conserved signal transduction pathways, including those implicated in causing cancer when improperly regulated. Our goal is to gain an understanding of the mechanisms used by cells to ensure properly regulated growth and tissue formation.


  • B.A., Biology and Society, Cornell University 
  • Ph.D., Genetics, Yale University

Selected Publications

  • Liao, J.Z.*, Chung, H.*, Shih, C., Wong, K.K-L., Dutta, D., Nil, Z., Burns, C-G., Kanca, O., Park, Y-J., Zuo, Z., Marcogliese, P.C., Sew, K., Bellen, H.J.# and E.M. Verheyen#. (2024) Cdk8/CDK19 promotes mitochondrial fission through Drp1 phosphorylation and can phenotypically suppress pink1 deficiency in Drosophila. * joint first authors, # joint corresponding authors. In press, Nature Communications,15, 3326.
  • Yu, K., Ramkumar, N., Wong, K.K.L., Tettweiler, G. and E.M. Verheyen (2023) The AMPK-like protein kinases Sik2 and Sik3 interact with Hipk and induce synergistic tumorigenesis in a Drosophila cancer model. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology,
  • Gignac, S. J.*, MacCharles, K.R.*, Fu, K., Bonaparte, K., Akarsu, G., Barrett, T.W., Verheyen, E.M.# and J.M. Richman#. (2023) Mechanistic studies in Drosophila and chicken give new insights into functions of DVL1 in dominant Robinow Syndrome. * joint first authors, # joint corresponding authors. Disease Models and Mechanisms, 16, doi:10.1242/dmm.049844.
  • E.M. Verheyen (2022) The power of Drosophila in modeling human disease mechanisms. Invited editorial, Disease Models and Mechanisms, 15 (3): dmm049549.
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