Taina Pihlajaniemi

Taina Pihlajaniemi

MD, PhD, Professor

Vice Rector (research)
Biomedicine, molecular biology

212 peer reviewed publications in international journals. The publications have been cited 10431 times. The author has a h-index of 59.00. (WoS)


The extracellular matrix (ECM) provides structural support and guidance cues for cells, and is centrally involved in dynamic processes in organogenesis, organ function and diseases. Pihlajaniemi investigates the structural and regulatory roles of collagens, a key group of ECM proteins in supporting homeostasis and function of cells and tissues. She has discovered several of the collagen family of proteins and studied their biochemical and cellular properties as well as physiological and pathological relevance in animal models and human diseases. These include the structurally homologous collagen types XV and XVIII, forming the subfamily of multiplexins (multiple triple-helix domains with interruptions), and collagen XIII, identified as a transmembrane protein. Of special interest is investigating their roles and mechanismsin tissue development and homeostasis, including in in stem cell niches, and in fibrotic and malignant processes. The aim is to use the new knowledge to design novel bioassays and therapeutic approaches.

Research interests

  • Extracellular matrix biology
  • Collagens
  • Stem cells and cancer
  • Neuromuscular junction
  • Fibrosis

Research funding (current)

Academy of Finland Projects 2017-2021 and 2020-2023; Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation 2018-2022, Sigrid Juselius Foundation 2020-2023, the Finnish Cancer Foundation 2017-2021

Prizes and other recognition

  • Northern Ostrobothnia Prize 2020
  • Winner of the Orientation 100 ideas competition by Orion Corp. (shared) 2018
  • Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland, 2015
  • Matti Äyräpää Prize 2013
  • The Science Prize of the State of Finland (shared) 1999
  • The Anders Jahre´s Nordic Medical Prize for Young Scientists 1994

Scientific merits

Professional and community activities

  • Vice Rector (President) research, University of Oulu, 2010-2019, 2020-2025
  • Chairman, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Oulu, 1991-2009
  • Scientific Director, Biocenter Oulu, 1996-2009
  • Founding Director, Biocenter Finland, 2006-2007
  • Director, Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in Cell-Extracellular Matrix Research (6 groups), 2012-2017
  • Member of the Specialist group/Council for Research Infrastructures (FIRI) at Academy of Finland in 2012-2016
  • Member of ERC Life Sciences panels in 2010-2015
  • Member of EU´s ESFRI Thematic Working Group for Biological and Medical Sciences in 2004-2011
  • Member and chair of the Board of Directors for the Center for Scientific Computing in 1998-2010
  • Member of the Science and Technology Policy council of Finland (chaired by the Prime Minister) in 2005-2007
  • Member of the Research Council of Health at the Academy of Finland in 1998-2003
  • Section Editor (extracellular matrix) for Cell & Tissue Research since 2000
  • Faculty 1000 Member and Contributor since 2001
  • Scientific co-founder of FibroGen Inc
  • Chair of the Collagen Gordon Research Conference, USA, in 2021, and Co-Chair in 2019

Selected publications

  • Izzi, Valerio; Lakkala, Juho; Devarajan, Raman; Kääriäinen, Anni; Koivunen, Jarkko; Heljasvaara, Ritva; Pihlajaniemi, Taina (2019) Pan-Cancer analysis of the expression and regulation of matrisome genes across 32 tumor types. - Matrix biology plus 1, 100004 . [Original] [Self-archived]
  • Primac, Irina; Maquoi, Erik; Blacher, Silvia; Heljasvaara, Ritva; Van Deun, Jan; Smeland, Hilde Y. H.; Canale, Annalisa; Louis, Thomas; Stuhr, Linda; Sounni, Nor Eddine; Cataldo, Didier; Pihlajaniemi, Taina; Pequeux, Christel; De Wever, Olivier; Gullberg, Donald; Noel, Agnes (2019) Stromal integrin alpha 11 regulates PDGFR beta signaling and promotes breast cancer progression. - Journal of clinical investigation 129 (11), 4509-4528 . [Original] [Self-archived]
  • Zainul, Zarin; Heikkinen, Anne; Koivisto, Hennariikka; Rautalahti, Iina; Kallio, Mika; Lin, Shuo; Härönen, Heli; Norman, Oula; Rüegg, Markus A.; Tanila, Heikki; Pihlajaniemi, Taina (2018) Collagen XIII Is Required for Neuromuscular Synapse Regeneration and Functional Recovery after Peripheral Nerve Injury. - Journal of neuroscience 38 (17), 4243-4258 . [Original] [Self-archived]
  • Karppinen, S-M.; Honkanen, H-K.; Heljasvaara, R.; Riihilä, P.; Autio-Harmainen, H.; Sormunen, R.; Harjunen, V.; Väisänen, M-R.; Väisänen, T.; Hurskainen, T.; Tasanen-Määttä, K.; Kähäri, V-M.; Pihlajaniemi, T. (2016) Collagens XV and XVIII show different expression and localisation in cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma: type XV appears in tumour stroma while XVIII becomes up-regulated in tumour cells and lost from microvessels. - Experimental Dermatology 25 (5), 348-354 . [Original]
  • Richter, Kati; Konzack, Anja; Pihlajaniemi, Taina; Heljasvaara, Ritva; Kietzmann, Thomas (2015) Redox-fibrosis : Impact of TGFβ1 on ROS generators, mediators and functional consequences. - Redox biology 6, 344-352 . [Original] [Self-archived]
  • Aikio, Mari; Elamaa, Harri; Vicente, David; Izzi, Valerio; Kaur, Inderjeet; Seppinen, Lotta; Speedy, Helen E.; Kaminska, Dorota; Kuusisto, Sanna; Sormunen, Raija; Heljasvaara, Ritva; Jones, Emma L.; Muilu, Mikko; Jauhiainen, Matti; Pihlajamäki, Jussi; Savolainen, Markku J.; Shoulders, Carol C.; Pihlajaniemi, Taina (2014) Specific collagen XVIII isoforms promote adipose tissue accrual via mechanisms determining adipocyte number and affect fat deposition. - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111 (30), E3043-3052 . [Original]
  • Rasi Karolina, Piuhola Jarkko, Czabanka Marcus, Sormunen Raija, Ilves Mika, Leskinen Hanna, Rysä Jaana, Kerkelä Risto, Janmey Paul, Heljasvaara Ritva, Peuhkurinen Keijo, Vuolteenaho Olli, Ruskoaho Heikki, Vajkoczy Peter, Pihlajaniemi Taina, Eklund Lauri (2010) Collagen XV is necessary for modeling of the extracellular matrix and its deficiency predisposes to cardiomyopathy. - Circulation Research 107, 1241-1252 .
  • Latvanlehto Anne, Fox Michael,Sormunen Raija,Tu Hongmin,Oikarainen Tuomo,Koski Anu,Naumenko Nikolay,Shakirzyanova Anastasia, Kallio Mika, Ilves Mika, Giniatullin Rashid,Sanes Joshua,Pihlajaniemi Taina (2010) Muscle-derived collagen XIII regulates maturation of the skeletal neuromuscular junction.. - Journal of neuroscience 30, 12230-12241
  • Brideau, Gaelle; Mäkinen, Markus J.; Elamaa, Harri; Tu, Hongmin; Nilsson, G.; Alitalo, K.; Pihlajaniemi, Taina & Heljasvaara, Ritva (2007) Endostatin overexpression inhibits lymphangiogenesis and lymph node metastasis in mice. - Cancer Research 67, 11528-11535
  • Fukai, N.; Eklund, Lauri; Marneros, A. G.; Oh, S. P.; Keene, D. R.; Tamarkin, L.; Niemelä, Merja; Ilves, Mika; Li, E.; Pihlajaniemi, Taina & Olsen, B. R. (2002) Lack of collagen XVIII/endostatin results in eye abnormalities. - EMBO Journal 21 (7), 1535-1544
  • Eklund, Lauri; Piuhola, Jarkko; Komulainen, J.; Sormunen, R.; Ongvarrasopone, C.; Fässler, R.; Muona, Anu; Ilves, Mika; Ruskoaho, Heikki; Takala, T. E. S. & Pihlajaniemi, Taina (2001) Lack of type XV collagen causes a skeletal myopathy and cardiovascular defects in mice. - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 98, 1194-1199

Thesis supervisions

  • Supervisor or co-supervisor of 45 PhD or MD-PhD theses to completion.

Research visits

  • University of Ulm, Germany

    Hans Kupczyk Guest Professor, 2006


  • University of Medicine and Dentistry - Rutgers Medical School, Piscataway, N.J., USA

    Post-doctoral fellow, 1982-1985