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Nissen Group

Structural Neurobiology - Structural and Functional Studies of Membrane Proteins in Brain


The Nissen group investigates the structure and molecular mechanisms of membrane transport processes, receptors, and biomembrane ultrastructure. Activities are mainly focused on using cryo-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM), protein crystallography, biochemistry, electrophysiology, and include also small-angle X-ray scattering and cryo-electron tomography.

A major topic of research interest is membrane transporters and receptors involved with neurological and psychiatric disorders, e.g. P-type ATPase that include ion pumps and lipid flippases, but also sodium-dependent amino acid, neurotransmitter transporters, and insulin receptor signaling are studied, as well as supramolecular structures of neuronal membranes addressing cooperative networks governing e.g. action potentials and synaptic functions. Studies also include structure-based drug discovery and protein engineering.

Our investigations link also to translational studies of neurological and psychiatric disorders associated with perturbed ion transport or metabolic control. 

Methods development, integrative structural biology, and bioimaging are also of great interest to the group.

Research Areas: Membrane proteins, Membrane transport and signaling, single-particle Cryo-EM, Cryo-Electron Tomography, Crystallography, Biochemistry, Drug discover

A collection of P-type ATPase structures from the Nissen lab. Figure courtesy of Dr. Oleg Sitsel.

Available projects

The Nissen group currently has projects available for Master and PhD students.

See current research projects in the laboratory here (link opens pdf)

See overview of current study opportunities in the laboratory (link opens new page)

Please contact Group Leader Poul Nissen directly, if interested.


Previous news from the research group


2019.10.07 | Events

Great symposium on Iceland last week

The 8th Annual Symposium on ATP1A3 in Disease 2019 took place 3-4 October 2019 on Iceland, hosted by the AHC Association of Iceland, and supported by an organizing committee consisting of European scientists working on ATP1A3 related diseases for many years, including three researchers affiliated DANDRITE; Karin Lykke-Hartmann, Hanne Poulsen, and…

2019.08.13 | People

Welcome to Mads Christensen, new PhD student in Poul Nissen's group at DANDRITE

Mads Christensen started as PhD students in Poul Nissen's group per 1 August 2019. He will be working with a project on the Na,K-ATPase, which is a well known membrane embedded ion-transporter. In addition to the physiological importance maintaining the electrochemical gradient of Na+ and K+ across the plasma membrane, mutations have been…

2019.08.05 | People

Welcome to Azadeh Shahsavar, new Assistant Professor in Poul Nissen's group at DANDRITE

Azadeh Shahsavar has been employed as an Assistant Professor for 2 years per 1 August 2019, funded by a project grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation on regulation of glycinergic signaling by the glycine transporter GlyT1. Azadeh herself has developed this project earlier, first as a postdoc in Poul Nissen’s group in a collaboration with Roche,…

2019.06.27 | Research news

Groundbreaking cryo-electron microscopy at Aarhus University reveals the first structures of a protein that maintains cell membranes

Using cutting-edge electron microscopy, researchers from Aarhus University have determined the first structures of a lipid-flippase. The discoveries provide a better understanding of the basics of how cells work and stay healthy, and can eventually increase our knowledge of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

2019.06.04 | People

Joseph Lyons is prolonged as Assistant Professor in Group Leader Poul Nissen's group

Joseph Lyons continues as Assistant Professor in Group Leader Poul Nissen's group per 1 June 2019. Joseph is working with single-particle cryo-EM studies of P4-ATPase lipid flippases, focusing on structural studies of P4-ATPase complexes with a particular focus on their ATPase coupled lipid transport mechanism and their role in brain cells. The…

2019.05.03 | People

Ronja Driller receives Lundbeck Postdoctoral fellowship

Ronja Driller is new postdoc in Poul Nissen’s group per 1 May 2019, as she has been awarded one of 46 prestigious Lundbeck postdoctoral fellowship for 2019. The fellowship is fully-funded for 3 years, amounting to 2,4 million DKK. The grant was awarded to Ronja in order for her to investigate the structure and function of endosomal and lysosomal…

2019.04.25 | Research news

Poul Nissen receives EUR 1.34 million to study the insulin receptor

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has awarded Professor Poul Nissen a five-year grant in the form of a so-called "NNF Distinguished Investigator 2019 grant" within "Bioscience and Basic Biomedicine", which is given to researchers who have shown their ability to carry out and lead research at the very highest international level.

The Nordic EMBL Partnership directors. (Left to right) Janna Saarela, Mark Daly, EMBL Director General Edith Heard, former EMBL Director General Iain Mattaj, Poul Nissen, Oliver Billker. PHOTO: Massimo del Prete/EMBL

2019.04.24 | Knowledge exchange

Nordic EMBL Partnership Directors featured by EMBL

The four Nordic EMBL Partnership Directors are featured in an article by the EMBL, discussing the benefits of collaboration and what the EMBL means to them.

2019.04.11 | Research news

New insights into calcium transport may help develop new drugs

A normal function of the heart and nerve system is, among other things, dependent on proper regulation of calcium in the cells. This process depends on the proper functioning of the calcium pump. Poul Nissen and his research group at DANDRITE have conducted new studies of the calcium pump structure give new insight into this process, which may…

2019.03.12 | People

Welcome to guest researcher Swati Aggarwal in Poul Nissen's group

Swati Aggarwal is visiting Poul Nissen's research group from start March to end May 2019 as part of her PhD studies at the European Spallation Source (ESS) in Lund, Sweden. Her PhD subject is “elucidating the function of proton pumps with neutron crystallography.”

2019.02.05 | People

Welcome to new ERASMUS intern Andreu Sabater

Andreu Sabater is new ERASMUS intern from the University of Barcelona, visiting Poul Nissen's research group from start February to end June 2019. During his internship, Andreu will work together with postdoc Montaña Bermejo on a project concerning stabilization and activity of the human copper pump associated with Wilson disease.

PhD student Line Marie Christiansen

2019.02.01 | People

Welcome to new PhD student Line Marie Christiansen

Line Marie Christiansen has been accepted as PhD student per 1. February 2019 in Group Leader Poul Nissen's group. Line Marie will be working on establishing an expression and purification protocol for ATP9A and fellow human P4-ATPase ATP9B. Further on in the project, she will work on biochemical characterization of ATP9A and ATP9B, as well as…

Poul Nissen, far right, with the Titan Krios microscope at Aarhus University. Photo: Poul Nissen.

2018.12.19 | Research news

Get insight into Cryo-EM in new feature from the Nordic EMBL Partnership

Cryo-electron microscopy, or cryo-EM, has been around since the 1970s, but it’s only in recent years that, thanks to technological advances, the technique has become more accessible. Poul Nissen, Director of DANDRITE, and Bernt Eric Uhlin, Founding Director of MIMS until October 2018, are interviewed about the current cryo-EM setups available in…

2018.12.07 | Research news

Novo Nordisk Foundation Project Grant for Prof. Poul Nissen

Professor Poul Nissen has been awarded a Novo Nordisk Foundation Project Grants in Bioscience and Basic Biomedicine 2018 for the project "Structure determination of the human glycine transporter hGlyT1".

From Left to Right: Agata Pernus (Project Officer - Government and EU Relations, EMBL), Plamena Markova (Joint Head of Government & EU Relations, EMBL), Janna Saarela (newly appointed Director, NCMM), Mark Daly (Director, FIMM), Edith Heard (incoming Director General, EMBL), Iain Mattaj (outgoing Director General, EMBL), Poul Nissen (Director, DANDRITE), Oliver Bilker (Director, MIMS), Silke Schumacher (Director International Relations, EMBL). Photo: Massimo del Prete, EMBL

2018.11.30 | News from the management

Farewell to Iain Mattaj, Director General, EMBL

The directors of the Nordic EMBL Partnership nodes attended a farewell event at the EMBL in Heidelberg for Iain Mattaj on 27th Nov. 2018, as he nears the end of his Director General mandate. Professor Iain Mattaj will be succeeded by Professor Edith Heard, who officially joins EMBL in January 2019.

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