Valérie Wittamer

Our research

Our research aims at providing novel insights into the basic biology of microglia, the resident immune cells of the central nervous system. In particular, we are interested in how the microglial network is established during vertebrate development, and subsequently maintained throughout life. Understanding these key aspects of microglia biology are of major importance since microglia are implicated in the pathology of most, if not all neurological disorders, and are now considered as major putative targets for therapeutic intervention in the field of neuroinflammation.

Our laboratory takes advantage of the strenghts of the zebrafish model system to address microglia development in ways not possible in other vertebrates. Because the first steps of microglia ontogeny occur early during embryogenesis, transparent transgenic zebrafish embryos offer great opportunities to characterize these processes in a non invasive way.


Our program relies on targeted genome editing gene manipulation using the TALEN and CRISPR technologies to manipulate microglia gene functions in vivo and examine the subsequent effects on microglia biology. We also perform live imaging analyses on fluorescent transgenic embryos to directly observe the behavior of microglial cells in vivo, as they interact in their microenvironment. In the long run, we also plan to develop zebrafish models of neurodegeneration and cancer that should prove instrumental for the analysis of microglia contribution in pathology and disease.

Group members

Valerie Wittamer (PI– Research Associate F.N.R.S)

( phone # +32(0) 2 555 3052

Valerie performed her graduate work in the laboratory of Marc Parmentier at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) where she identified chemerin as the endogenous ligand of the orphan G protein-coupled receptor ChemR23. For this work, she was awarded the Belgian Galien Prize of Pharmacology in 2006. She then joined the laboratory of David Traver at University of California at San Diego (UCSD) where she developed novel zebrafish transgenic lines that provided new insights into the cellular biology of the zebrafish hematopoietic system.
Since starting her own laboratory in 2014, Valerie has received a Brains Back to Brussels Award from Innoviris and the Brussels-Capital Region, a Welbio Starting Grant Award from the Walloon Region, and Scholar Awards from the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Minerve Foundation.


Marianne Caron (Lab Manager)
Marianne obtained her bachelor degree in biotechnologie at “Haute Ecole Provinciale de Hainaut” (HEPH Condorcet, Ath) in june 2014.
She joined the laboratory in early 2015 as our Lab Manager.

Mireia Rovira i Berger

Mireia obtained her PhD in the laboratory of Dr. Josep Planas in Fish Molecular Physiology at the University of Barcelona (UB) in 2016. In 2017 she joined the Evolutive Immunology research group led by Dr. Nerea Roher at the Biotechnology and Biomedicine Institute (IBB) in a collaborative project with Dr. María Isabel Pividori’s laboratory at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), to develop fish biosensors. Since 2018, she joined our lab as a postdoctoral researcher to work on microglia development and neuroregeneration.


Elodie Di Ruggiero (Ph.D student)
Elodie Di Ruggiero received her Master degree in Biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology from the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in 2013. Elodie joined our laboratory in October 2014 as a PhD research fellow of the FNRS/FRIA. She is studying the implication of chemerin, a chemoattractant agent, in cancer biology



Omid Ghandaharian (Ph.D student)
Omid obtained his bachelor degree in molecular biology from “Ferdowsi University of Mashhad” in Iran. He then moved to Belgium to obtain his master degree in the same field in V.U.B. Since October 2014 he joined our lab as a Ph.D. student.


Giuliano Ferrero (Ph.D student)
Giuliano earned his master’s degree in Medical Biotechnology from the University of Turin. Awarded a UNI (ULB Neuroscience Institute) PhD fellowship, he joined our lab in 2015. Funded by an Aspirant FNRS grant, he is currently working on microglia development.


Jennifer Pozo Gomez (Ph.D student)
Jennifer Pozo Gomez obtained her Master degree in Biological Medicine from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in June 2017.She joined our laboratory in October 2017 as a PhD student.Jennifer is studying the role of chemerin in tumorigenesis.



Magali Miserocchi (Master Student)
Magali Miserocchi obtained her bachelor degree in biomedical sciences at Université Libre de Bruxelles in 2016. She is currently doing her Master thesis in our lab. 





A csf1rb mutation uncouples two waves of microglia development in zebrafish. Ferrero G, Miserocchi M, Di Ruggiero E, Wittamer V. Development. 2021 Jan 11;148(1):dev194241. doi: 10.1242/dev.194241.

Yolk sac hematopoiesis: does it contribute to the adult hematopoietic system? Wittamer V, Bertrand JY. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2020 May 13. doi: 10.1007/s00018-020-03527-6. 

Zebrafish macrophage developmental arrest underlies depletion of microglia and reveals Csf1r-independent metaphocytes. Kuil LE, Oosterhof N, Ferrero G, Mikulášová T, Hason M, Dekker J, Rovira M, van der Linde HC, van Strien PM, de Pater E, Schaaf G, Bindels EM, Wittamer V, van Ham TJ. Elife. 2020 May 5;9. pii: e53403. doi: 10.7554/eLife.53403. 

Macrophage-expressed gene (mpeg)1 identifies a subpopulation of B cells in the adult zebrafish”,Giuliano Ferrero, Etienne Gomez, Sowmya lyer, Mireia Rovira, Magali Miserocchi, David M. Langenau, Julien Y. Bertrand and Valérie Wittamer. (2020) Journal of Leukocyte Biology. Mar;107(3):431-443. doi: 10.1002/JLB.1A1119-223R.

Embryonic microglia derive from primitive macrophages and are replaced by cmyb-dependent definitive microglia in zebrafish, Giuliano Ferrero, Christopher B. Mahony, Eléonore Dupuis, Laurent Yvernogeau, Elodie Di Ruggiero, Magali Miserocchi, Marianne Caron, Catherine Robin, David Traver, Julien Y. Bertrand and Valérie Wittamer. Cell Rep. 2018 Jul 3;24(1):130-141

Page DM*, Wittamer V*, Bertrand JY*, Lewis KL, Pratt DN, Delgado N, Schale SE, McGue C, Jacobsen BH, Doty A, Pao Y, Yang H, Chi NC, Magor BG, Traver D. An evolutionarily conserved program of B-cell development and activation in zebrafish. Blood, 122(8):e1-11, 2013
Shah RN, Rodriguez-Nunez I, Eason DD, Haire RN, Bertrand JY, Wittamer V, Traver D, Nordone SK, Litman GW, Yoder JA. Development and characterization of anti-nitr9 antibodies. Adv Hematol, 2012; 2012:596925
Bondue B, Wittamer V, Parmentier M. Chemerin and its receptors in leukocyte trafficking, inflammation and metabolism. Cytokine Growth Factor Rev, 22 (5-6), pages 331-8, 2011
Wittamer V*, Bertrand JY*, Gutschow PW, Traver D. Characterization of the mononuclear phagocyte system in zebrafish. Blood, 117 (26), pages 7126-35, 2011
Yoder JA, Turner PM, Wright PD, Wittamer V, Bertrand JY, Traver D, Litman GW. Developmental and tissue-specific expression of NITRs. Immunogenetics., 62 (2), pages 117-22, 2010
Luangsay S*, Wittamer V*, Bondue B, De Henau O, Rouger L, Brait M, Franssen JD, de Nadai P, Huaux F, Parmentier M. Mouse ChemR23 is expressed in dendritic cell subsets and macrophages, and mediates an anti-inflammatory activity of chemerin in a lung disease model. J Immunol., 183 (10), pages 6489-99, 2009
Guillabert A*, Wittamer V*, Bondue B, Godot V, Imbault V, Parmentier M, Communi D. Role of neutrophil proteinase 3 and mast cell chymase in chemerin proteolytic regulation. J Leukoc Biol, 84 (6), pages 1530-8, 2008
Roh SG, Song SH, Choi KC, Katoh K, Wittamer V, Parmentier M, Sasaki S. Chemerin, a new adipokine that modulates adipogenesis via its own receptor. Biochem Biophys Res Commun, 362 (4), pages 1013-8, 2007
Wittamer V, Bondue B, Guillabert A, Vassart G, Parmentier M, Communi D. Neutrophil-mediated maturation of chemerin: a link between innate and adaptive immunity. J Immunol, 175 (1), pages 487-93, 2005
Vermi W, Riboldi E, Wittamer V, Gentili F, Luini W, Marrelli S, Franssen JD, Communi D, Massardi L, Sironi M, Mantovani A, Parmentier M, Facchetti F, Sozzani S. Role of the chemoattractant receptor ChemR23 in directing the migration of myeloid and plasmacytoid dendritic cells to lymphoid organs and inflamed skin. J Exp Med, 201 (1), pages 509-515, 2005                                                                                        
Migeotte I, Riboldi E, Franssen JD, Grégoire F, Loison C, Wittamer V, Detheux M, Robberecht P, Costagliola S, Vassart G, Sozzani S, Parmentier M, Communi D. Identification and characterization of an endogenous chemotactic ligand specific for FPRL2. J Exp Med, 201 (1), pages 83-93, 2005
Wittamer V, Grégoire F, Robberecht P, Vassart G, Communi D, Parmentier M. Short peptides derived from the mature chemerin C-terminus activate the ChemR23 receptor with low nanomolar potency. J Biol Chem, 12 (279), pages 9956-62, 2004
Wittamer V, Franssen JD, Vulcano M, Mirjolet JF, Le Poul E, Migeotte I, Brézillon S, Tyldesley R, Blanpain C, Detheux M, Mantovani A, Sozzani S, Vassart G, Parmentier M, Communi D. Specific recruitment of antigen-presenting cells by chemerin, a novel processed ligand from human inflammatory fluids. J Exp Med, 198 (7), pages 977-985, 2003
Blanpain C, Vanderwinden JM, Cihak J, Wittamer V, Le Poul E, Issafras H, Stangassinger M, Vassart G, Marullo S, Schlondorff D, Parmentier M, Mack M. Multiple active states and oligomerization of CCR5 revealed by functional properties of monoclonal antibodies. Mol Biol Cell, 13 (2), pages 723-37, 2002
Blanpain C*, Wittamer V*, Vanderwinden JM, Boom A, Renneboog B, Lee B, Le Poul E, El Asmar L, Govaerts C, Vassart G, Doms RW, Parmentier M. Palmitoylation of CCR5 is critical for receptor trafficking and efficient activation of intracellular signaling pathways. J Biol Chem, 276 (26), pages 23795-804, 2001
Martin L, Blanpain C, Garnier P, Wittamer V, Parmentier M, Vita C. Structural and functional analysis of the RANTES-glycosaminoglycans interactions. Biochemistry, 40 (21), pages 6303-18, 2001
Blanpain C, Lee B, Tackoen M, Puffer B, Boom A, Libert F, Sharron M, Wittamer V, Vassart G, Doms RW, Parmentier M. Multiple nonfunctional alleles of CCR5 are frequent in various human populations. Blood, 96 (5), pages 1638-45, 2000