Laboratory for kidney-driven inter-organ signaling

Sybille Köhler

Mission Statement

“Understanding the functional role of Drosophila nephrocytes as key modulators of fly physiology”

— Sybille Köhler, PhD

Team Members

MD student

Berk Cantutan

PhD student

Karl King Alornyo

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

PhD Student

Michelle Bouchard

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


©Sybille Köhler, created with BioRender

The Drosophila (fruit fly) kidney consists of the Malpighian tubules and nephrocytes, the latter representing the homologue cells to mammalian kidney podocytes, as they share a high similarity in morphology and the molecular make-up of the filtration barrier. One major functional role of nephrocytes is to filter and endocytose factors from the haemolymph (blood). This is crucial for fly physiology in states of health and disease, as Drosophila has an open circulatory system. The group of Dr. Sybille Köhler therefore investigates the role of nephrocytes as key modulators of fly physiology in disease states such as diabetes and during aging. In detail, inter-organ signaling including the cross-talk between nephrocytes and the heart, immune system and gut are investigated. In addition, nephrocytes serve as a great tool to study molecular mechanisms such as mechanosensation and protein function. The findings obtained within the fly model will be translated into the mammalian organism to understand mechanisms during podocyte injury in greater detail.

Sybille Köhler, PhD

Principle Investigator
Junior Group Leader

III. Department of Medicine, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)
Martinistr. 52
20246 Hamburg, Germany


Current Position
since 2024 Principal Investigator SFB 1192 Subproject B3
since 2022 Principal Investigator STOP-FSGS consortium Project 3
since 2021 Junior Group Leader, III. Department of Medicine (Prof. Tobias Huber), Hamburg, Germany
University Training
2008 - 2011

Studies in economics, Johannes-Gutenberg-University Mainz, Germany                     

2005 - 2010 Studies in biology, Johannes-Gutenberg-University Mainz, Germany   
Academic qualifications
2011 - 2016

PhD student, Department II of Internal Medicine, Nephrolab (Prof. T. Benzing), Cologne                 

2011 Bachelor thesis, Institute for Management, Johannes-Gutenberg-University Mainz, Germany                     
2010 Diploma thesis, Department of Pharmacology, University Hospital Mainz (Dr. S. Horke), Mainz, Germany
Previous professional career

Scientific postgraduate education:

2019 - 2021

PostDoctoral Fellow, Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh (Dr. Barry Denholm), Scotland, UK

2016 - 2019

PostDoc, Department II of Internal Medicine and Center for Molecular Medicine (Prof. P. Brinkkötter), Cologne, Germany

Selected awards and honors
2022 - 2020 Rahel Liebeschütz-Plaut Mentoring Programme, Mentee 
2022 - 2020

AJP-Renal Early Career Editorial Fellowship


Research fellowship from the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft (DFG), Fellow


Fritz-Scheler-Stipendium from the German Society of Nephrology


NetEX Professorinnenprogramm of the University of Cologne

Selected publications


The 14th International Podocyte Conference 2023: from podocyte biology to glomerular medicine. Koehler S, Hengel FE, Dumoulin B, Damashek L, Holzman LB, Susztak K, Huber TB; International Podocyte Conference Organizing Committee. Kidney Int. 2024 May;105(5):935-952. 


The proteasome modulates endocytosis specifically in glomerular cells to promote kidney filtration. Sachs W, Blume L, Loreth D, Schebsdat L, Hatje F, Koehler S, Wedekind U, Sachs M, Zieliniski S, Brand J, Conze C, Florea BI, Heppner F, Krüger E, Rinschen MM, Kretz O, Thünauer R, Meyer-Schwesinger C. T. Nat Commun. 2024 Mar 1;15(1):1897.


A protective role for Drosophila Filamin in nephrocytes via Yorkie mediated hypertrophy. Koehler S, Huber TB, Denholm B. Life Sci Alliance. 2022 Aug 3;5(12):e202101281. 


Scaffold polarity proteins Par3A and Par3B share redundant functions while Par3B acts independent of atypical protein kinase C/Par6 in podocytes to maintain the kidney filtration barrier.
Koehler S, Odenthal J, Ludwig V, Jess DU, Höhne M, Jüngst C, Grawe F, Helmstädter M, Janku JL, Bergmann C, Hoyer PF, Hagmann HHH, Walz G, Bloch W, Niessen C, Schermer B, Wodarz A, Denholm B, Benzing T, Iden S, Brinkkoetter PT. Kidney Int. 2021 Dec 17:S0085-2538(21)01150-9. doi: 10.1016/j.kint.2021.11.030.


Proteome Analysis of Isolated Podocytes Reveals Stress Responses in Glomerular Sclerosis..
Koehler S, Kuczkowski A, Kuehne L, Jüngst C, Hoehne M, Grahammer F, Eddy S, Kretzler M, Beck BB, Höhfeld J, Schermer B, Benzing T, Brinkkoetter PT, Rinschen MM. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2020 Mar;31(3):544-559.


Injured Podocytes Are Sensitized to Angiotensin II–Induced Calcium Signaling.
Binz-Lotter J, Jüngst C, Rinschen MM, Koehler S, Zentis P, Schauss A, Schermer B, Benzing T, Hackl MJ. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2020 Mar;31(3):532-542.


Anaerobic Glycolysis Maintains the Glomerular Filtration Barrier Independent of Mitochondrial Metabolism and Dynamics.
Brinkkoetter PT, Bork T, Salou S, Liang W, Mizi A, Özel C, Koehler S, Hagmann HH, Ising C, Kuczkowski A, Schnyder S, Abed A, Schermer B, Benzing T, Kretz O, Puelles VG, Lagies S, Schlimpert M, Kammerer B, Handschin C, Schell C, Huber TB. Cell Rep. 2019 Apr 30;27(5):1551-1566.e5.


Construction of a viral T2A-peptide based knock-in mouse model for enhanced Cre recombinase activity and fluorescent labeling of podocytes.
Koehler S, Brähler S, Braun F, Hagmann H, Rinschen MM, Späth MR, Höhne M, Wunderlich FT, Schermer B, Benzing T, Brinkkoetter PT. Kidney Int. 2017 Feb 7. pii: S0085-2538(16)30745-1.


A Single and Transient Ca2+ Wave in Podocytes does not induce Changes in Glomerular Filtration and Perfusion.
Koehler S, Brähler S, Binz J, Hackl M, Hagmann H, Kuczkowski A, Vogt M, Wunderlich C, Wunderlich T, Schweda F, Schermer B, Benzing T, Brinkkoetter PT. Sci Rep. 2016 Oct 19;6:35400.


Par3A is dispensable for the function of the glomerular filtration barrier of the kidney.
Koehler S, Tellkamp F, Niessen C, Bloch W, Kerjaschki D, Schermer B, Benzing T, Brinkkoetter PT. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2016 Jul 1;311(1):F112-9.



June 13-16, 2024 | Coex, Seoul, Korea
June 2-4, 2024 | Hamburg, Germany
June 4, 2024 | Lecture, Prof. Dr. Eva Tolosa

Prof. Dr. Eva Tolosa, Institute of Immunology, „T cell Development“ ...

Martinistraße 52
Campus Research N27
20246 Hamburg Germany
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

University Medical Center Hamburg - Eppendorf