Professor Walter Wahli

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Professor Walter Wahli
Professor of Metabolic Disease
Investigator, Microbiota Host Interactions, Nutrigenomics & Metabolism Laboratory


Laboratory Staff 

  • Rachel Tee, Research Assistant
  • Llanto Elma Faylon, Research Assistant
  • Norhashimah Binte Sulaiman, Research Assistant
  • Zhuang Yan, Research Assistant
  • Chen Jiapeng Kelvin, PhD student  (Co-supervision with Prof Andrew Tan, SBS)
  • Wendy Phua Wen Ting, PhD student (Co-supervision with Prof Andrew Tan, SBS)
  • Penny Oh, PhD student (Co-supervision with Prof Andrew Tan, SBS)
  • Bharat Junnarkar Seetanshu, PhD student (Co-supervision with Prof Andrew Tan, SBS)



Professor Walter Wahli is Professor of Metabolic Disease at Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University & Imperial College London. He is also the President of the Council of the Nestle Foundation for the Study of Problems of Nutrition in the World. Prior to these appointments, Prof Wahli spent most of his scientific career at the world-renowned University of Lausanne, Switzerland. He obtained his PhD in 1977 under the guidance of Prof. Weber at the University of Berne. He has been postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Embryology, Carnegie Institution of Washington in Baltimore, USA, and Visiting associate at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, USA. He was appointed Full Professor and Director of the Institute of Animal Biology of the University of Lausanne in 1980. He is also the Founder Director of the Center for Integrative Genomics at Lausanne.

Prof Wahli is internationally recognised for his contributions to the area of energy metabolism. He is the co-discoverer of the transcription factors (PPARs), which are activated by fatty acids and eicosanoids, and has provided fundamental insights into their multifaceted functions. His discoveries contributed in advancing the understanding of the molecular signalling of these lipids, which impact most key biological processes in vertebrates, including humans. He has published close to 330 papers in top-ranking journals, book chapters and editorials. He was awarded several prizes and recently received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Faculty of Biology and Medicine, University of Lausanne.

His professional experience includes evaluating research grants and fellowships for international funding bodies including the National Science Foundation (USA), Medical Research Council (UK), Human Frontier Science Program, The Welcome Trust (UK) and many others. He has been the chair of the Division Biology and Medicine of the Swiss National Science Foundation. He was Vice-rector Research of the University of Lausanne and has participated in many Evaluating and Advisory Committees of many European Institutions.


Research Focus

Mammals have evolved new resources, such as placentation and lactation, to feed their offspring. In mice, the fetal-neonatal and the suckling-weaning transitions are characterized by marked nutritional changes and alterations of the composition of the gut microbiome. The newborn mammals must switch at birth from glucose to lipid as a source of energy and then again to a carbohydrate rich diet after weaning. Prof Wahli and his team investigate the molecular mechanisms by which fetal, neonatal and post-weaning metabolic organs control gene expression during these transitions.

When the mechanisms governing lipid and glucose metabolism are altered, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) may develop, which predisposes to more severe illnesses, such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), cirrhosis and liver cancer. Their research on the roles of PPARs paves the way for better treatment of NAFLD and its complications.
Skeletal muscle is considered to be a major site of energy expenditure and thus is important in regulating events affecting metabolic disorders. Over the years, the role of the transcription factor PPARb/d has been established in fatty acid metabolism and energy expenditure in skeletal muscles. Its dysfunction leads to reduce oxidative capacity of muscles and the development of obesity and diabetes. They are studying novel functions of this receptor in muscle biology, particularly in metabolic diseases (for example hyperlipidemia, diabetes and obesity).

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 LKCMedicine Research Spotlight



  1. C. Dreyer*, G. Krey*, H. Keller, F. Givel, G. Helfenbein and W. Wahli (1992). Control of the peroxisomal β-oxidation pathway by a novel family of nuclear hormone receptors. Cell 68, 879-887. * Co-first authors.
  2. P.R. Devchand, H. Keller, J.M. Peters, M. Vazquez, F.J. Gonzalez and W. Wahli (1996). The PPARb - leukotriene B4 pathway to inflammation control. Nature 384, 39-43.
  3. S. Kersten, J. Seydoux, J.M.Peters, F.J. Gonzalez, B. Desvergne and W. Wahli (1999). Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha mediates the adaptive response to fasting. Journal of Clinical Investigation 103, 1489-1498.
  4. S. Kersten, B. Desvergne and W. Wahli (2000). Roles of PPARs in health and disease. Nature 405, 421-424.
  5. Leuenberger, S. Pradervand and W. Wahli (2009) Sumoylated PPARα mediates gender-specific gene repression and protects the liver from estrogen-induced toxicity. Journal of Clinical Investigation 119, 3138–3148.
  6. A. Montagner, M.B. Delgado, C. Tallichet-Blanc, J.S. Chan, M.K. Sng, H. Mottaz, G. Degueurce, Y. Lippi, C. Moret, M. Baruchet, M. Antsiferova, S. Werner, D. Hohl, T.A. Saati, P.J. Farmer, N.S. Tan, L. Michalik, W. Wahli (2014). Src is activated by the nuclear receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor β/δ in ultraviolet radiation-induced skin cancer. EMBO Mol Med. 6, 80-98.
  7. Montagner, A, Polizzi, E. Fouché, S. Ducheix, Y. Lippi, F. Lasserre, V. Barquissau, M. Régnier, C. Lukowicz, F. Benhamed, A. Iroz, J. Bertrand-Michel. T. Al Saati, P. Cano, L. Lakhal, G. Mithieux, F. Rajas, S. Lagarrigue, T. Pineau, N. Loiseau, C. Postic, D. Langin, W. Wahli*,  H. Guillou* (2016). Liver PPARα is crucial for whole body fatty acid homeostasis and protects from NAFLDs. *Co-corresponding authors. Gut  65, 1202-14. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2015-310798.
  8. N.S. Tan, M. Vazquez, A. Montagner, M.K. Sng, H. Guillou, W. Wahli (2016). Transcriptional control of health and disease by the nuclear receptor PPARβ/δ. Progress in Lipid Research, 64, 98–122; doi: 10.1016/j.plipres.2016.09.001
  9. G. Rando*, C.K Tan*, N. Khaled, A. Montagner, N. Leuenberger, J. Bertrand-Michel, E. Paramalingam, H. Guillou, W. Wahli (2016). Glucocorticoid receptor-PPARα axis in fetal mouse liver prepares neonates for milk lipid catabolism. * Co-first authors. eLife 5, e11853. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.11853.
  10. K. Duszka, A. Picard, S. Ellero-Simatos, K.J. Chen, M. Defernez, E. Paramalingam,   A. Pigram, L. Vanoaica, C. Canlet, P. Parini, A. Narbad, H. Guillou, B. Thorens, W. Wahli (2016). Intestinal PPARγ signaling is required for sympathetic nervous system activation in response to caloric restriction. Scientific Reports 6, 36937; doi: 10.1038/srep36937