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prof. dr. S.H.M. Rooijakkers Full Professor

  • Department of Medical Microbiology

S.H.M. Rooijakkers


Research Programs


The goal of the research of Susan Rooijakkers is to unravel the molecular mechanisms underlying bacterial killing by the human immune system. In particular, she investigates the molecular functioning of the complement system, a large protein network in plasma that plays an essential role in the immune response against all invading bacteria. Complement rapidly labels bacteria for phagocytosis by immune cells and directly kills Gram-negative bacteria via pore formation (Membrane Attack Complex (MAC)). Although the MAC is an evolutionary conserved mechanism to kill bacterial cells, we currently do not understand how complement activation results in bacterial killing. In 2015, she obtained the prestigious ERC Starting grant that is aimed at providing insight into these bacterial killing mechanisms. She has recently established novel methods to study complement activation in highly purified model systems allowing us to provide insight into MAC-dependent killing of bacteria.

Other projects in the lab involve unravelling processes underlying complement-mediated phagocytosis. Complement is essential in immune eradication of Gram-positive bacteria. She aims to elucidate the molecular details of complement opsonin-receptor interactions . The work will pave the way for several therapeutic applications, including targeted complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC) and antibody therapy of clinically important Gram-positive bacteria. Furthermore, her studies will create new avenues for blocking the undesired complement activation during systemic bacterial infections and sepsis.

Side Activities

  • Academic activities

    Academic editor of Plos One.

    Reviewer of international peer-reviewed journals: Nature, Plos Pathogens, Journal of Immunology, Infection and Immunity, Cell Host&Microbe, Journal of Innate Immunity, Clinical Microbiology and Infection, Molecular Microbiology.

    Official reviewer for Molecular Immunology.

    Organizer of the 13th European Meeting on complement in human disease, August 2011, Leiden, The Netherlands.

    Organization of annual retreats for post-docs of the Eijkman School for Immunology and Infectious diseases.

    Member of the PhD-education committee of the Eijkman Postgraduate School for Immunology and Infectious diseases.

    Panel member of the excecutive committe of the 'Complement UK research network', a collaborative organization that joints over 40 PIs (representing 29 UK Centers). My role as a panel member is to recruit PhD students for open positions (May 2016)

    Board member NADP, Ministerie van Volksgezondheid Welzijn en Sport. Remark, compensation in favor of research group at UMCU.

    Committee member of NWO-ZonMw Veni program  From september 1th 2019 till present day). Remark, compensation in favor of research group at UMCU.

    Opponent at PhD thesis defenses outside the Netherlands.

    • PhD opponent of Anne Rosbjerg, candidate of Professor Peter Garred, University of Copenhagen (August 2018)
    • PhD opponent of Espen Waage Skjeflo, candidate of Professor Tom Erik Moones, University of Bodo (November 2018)
    • PhD opponent of Janus Schatz-Jakobsen, candidate of Professor Gregers Rom Andersen, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University (September 2016)
    • External examiner of PhD thesis of Weilin Li, University of Auckland, New Zealand (September 2014)

Fellowship and Awards

  • Research Grants

    March 2015     €1.500.000,- personal ERC Starting grant from European Research Council.

    Feb 2013          Co-applicant on a €800.000,- Eurostars grant together with Pepscan Therapeutics and   Bicycle Therapeutics (#E7679, BAIT, Bicycle Anti-Inflammatory Therapeutics).

    Oct 2011          €100.000,- Aspasia-grant from NWO.

    Nov 2010         €800.000,- personal VIDI-grant for Innovational Research Incentives from NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research) (#917-11-379).

    Nov 2008         European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) long term fellowship (#ALTF 382-2008).

    Jan 2007          €200.000,- personal VENI-grant for Innovational Research Incentives from NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research) (#916-76-037).



Research Output (35)

Complement-dependent outer membrane perturbation sensitizes Gram-negative bacteria to Gram-positive specific antibiotics

Heesterbeek D. A.C., Martin N. I., Velthuizen A., Duijst M., Ruyken M., Wubbolts R., Rooijakkers S. H.M., Bardoel B. W. 1 dec 2019, In: Scientific Reports. 9 10 p.

Publisher Correction:Complement-dependent outer membrane perturbation sensitizes Gram-negative bacteria to Gram-positive specific antibiotics (Scientific Reports, (2018), 8, 1, (15409), 10.1038/s41598-018-33850-9)

Heesterbeek D. A.C., Martin N. I., Velthuizen A., Duijst M., Ruyken M., Wubbolts R., Rooijakkers S. H.M., Bardoel B. W. 1 dec 2019, In: Scientific Reports. 9

Group IIA-secreted phospholipase A<sub>2</sub> in human serum kills commensal but not clinical Enterococcus faecium isolates

Paganelli Fernanda L., Leavis Helen L., He Samantha, van Sorge Nina M., Payré Christine, Lambeau Gérard, Willems Rob J.L., Rooijakkers Suzan H.M. 1 aug 2018, In: Infection and Immunity. 86

Differential antibacterial control by neutrophil subsets

Leliefeld Pieter H C, Pillay Janesh, Vrisekoop Nienke, Heeres Marjolein, Tak Tamar, Kox Matthijs, Rooijakkers Suzan H M, Kuijpers Taco W, Pickkers Peter, Leenen Luke P H, Koenderman Leo 12 jun 2018, In: Blood Advances. 2 , p. 1344-1355 12 p.

Let's tie the knot:Marriage of complement and adaptive immunity in pathogen evasion, for better or worse

Bennett Kaila M., Rooijakkers Suzan H.M., Gorham Ronald D. 31 jan 2017, In: Frontiers in Microbiology. 8

The Staphylococcus aureus polysaccharide capsule and Efb-dependent fibrinogen shield act in concert to protect against phagocytosis

Kuipers Annemarie, Stapels Daphne A.C., Weerwind Lleroy T., Ko Ya Ping, Ruyken Maartje, Lee Jean C., van Kessel Kok P.M., Rooijakkers Suzan H.M. 1 jul 2016, In: Microbiology (United Kingdom). 162 , p. 1185-1194 10 p.

Staphylococcus aureus protects its immune-evasion proteins against degradation by neutrophil serine proteases

Stapels D A C, Kuipers A, von Köckritz-Blickwede M, Ruyken M, Tromp A T, Horsburgh M J, de Haas C J C, van Strijp J A G, van Kessel K P M, Rooijakkers S H M apr 2016, In: Cellular microbiology. 18 , p. 536–545

Contribution of the complement Membrane Attack Complex to the bactericidal activity of human serum

Berends Evelien T M, Mohan Sarbani, Miellet Willem R., Ruyken Maartje, Rooijakkers Suzan H. M. 1 jun 2015, In: Molecular Immunology. 65 , p. 328-335 8 p.

Molecular insights into the surface-specific arrangement of complement C5 convertase enzymes

Berends E.T.M., Gorham R.D. Jr., Ruyken M., Soppe J.A., Orhan H., Aerts P.C., de Haas C.J.C., Gros P., Rooijakkers S.H.M. 2015, In: BMC Biology. 13

Genetics and virulence role of the classical group A Streptococcus Lancefield antigen

Cole Jason, van Sorge Nina, Kuipers Kirsten, Henningham Anna, Aziz Ramy, Kasirer-Friede Ana, Lin Leo, Berends Evelien, Davies Mark, Dougan Gordan, Zhang Fan, Dahesh Samira, Shaw Laura, Gin Jennifer, Cunningham Madeleine, Merriman Joseph, Rooijakkers Suzan, Malley Richard, Walker Mark, Shattil Sanford, Schlievert Patrick, Choudhury Biswa, Nizet Victor apr 2014, In: FASEB Journal. 28 1 p.

All Research Output (35)
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