Jens Leipziger

Group Leader

Jens Leipziger
Professor, DMSc
More information  

Our group studies the molecular physiology of transporting epithelia. Defective transport across the epithelial barrier is the basis of many common diseases such as hypertension, renal salt wasting and diarrhea. Our focus is directed towards all aspects of the cellular mechanisms of ion transport across the epithelial barrier. As such, we are interested in how ions and substances move across the plasma membrane, which transporting molecules permit this process and how the process is regulated. We study the transport processes in the kidney with special emphasis on the thick ascending limb and the collecting duct. In terms of ion homeostasis, the kidneys and the intestine are parallel organs. We have a long standing research track to study ion transport in the intestine. Here we address the cellular mechanism and regulation of exocrine secretion in the distal colon. An overarching theme of our research is the role of extracellular ATP as auto- and paracrine signaling molecule in the regulation of ion transport (purinergic signaling). We have discovered that all transporting epithelia express apical and basolateral ATP receptors (purinergic). We have defined the luminal fluid compartment of epithelia as an extracellular signaling space, in which regulation of renal and intestinal ion transport takes place. We have also discovered that the primary cilium of renal epithelial cells functions as tubular flow sensor involved the epithelial ATP release.

Purinergic signaling in renal and intestinal epithelia

Molecular mechanism of epithelial ion transport

The cellular mechanism of ATP release

The large conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channel and intestinal K+ secretion

The primary cilium as flow sensing organelle in the renal tubule

P2X receptors and their mechanism to regulate renal epithelial transport

Acid base transporters in the thick ascending limb

Electrophysiologcial methods to quantify ion transport: Ussing chamber, transepithelial electrical measurements in renal tubules

Perfusion of isolated renal tubules

Fluorescence life cell/tissue imaging to measure intracellular ion concentrations (e.g. Ca2+, H+)

Confocal microscopy

Biosensors and other methods and to detect extracellular ATP (e.g. luminometry)

Standard molecular biology techniques (RT-PCR, semi-quantitative PCR, genotyping, etc.)

Radioimmunoassay to quantify plasma hormone concentrations

Knock-out mice, metabolic balance studies, telemetry

Other supportive techniques


  • Prof. Markus Bleich, Inst. für Physiologie, Christian Albrechts University Kiel, Germany
  • Dr. Peter Hanley, Inst. for Molecular Cell Biology, University of Münster, Germany
  • Prof. Asher Shainberg, The Mina & Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel
  • Prof. Robert Unwin, Nephrology, University College London Royal Free Hospital, UK
  • Prof. Michael Köttgen, Nephrology University of Freiburg, Germany
  • Prof. Jan Loffing, Anatomy, University of Zürich, Switzerland
  • Prof. Peter Ruth, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Pharmaceutical Institute University of Tübingen, Germany
  • MEMBRANES (Research Excellence Center at AU, to be installed)
  • Prof. Helle A. Praetorius, Prof. Christian Aalkjaer, Ass. Prof. Ebbe Bødtkjær, Department of Biomedicine, AU

Rita Maria Delgado Silva Marques, PhD student; Pauline de Bruijn, PhD student; Casper K. Larsen, PhD student; Thomas Pudlarz, visiting medical student; Edith B. Møller, technician; all local collaborators of Helle A. Praetorius´group

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Revideret 03.08.2016