Jacques Drouin, PhD

12 Feb 2020


Research interests

  • Pituitary dévelopment and function
  • Epigenetics
  • Hormone action

The pituitary is the master gland of the endocrine system and it controls the function of the gonads. We have been interested for a long time in the mechanisms controlling organogenesis, cell differentiation and function of the pituitary, as well as their impact on target organs particularly the gonads and adrenals. We discovered the transcription factor Pitx1 and shown its role in organogenesis of the pituitary as well as in transcription of genes encoding pituitary hormones, particularly POMC and the gonadotropins. Our discovery of the transcription factor Tpit led us to show its importance in differentiation of pituitary POMC cells as well as its antagonistic role in differentiation of gonadotrope cells. The particular relation between POMC and gonadotrope cells does not limit itself to their origin from a common precursor, but also privileged interactions within homotypic and interdependent cellular networks. These crosstalks impact the activity of different regulatory axes between the pituitary and peripheral endocrine tissues, and in this case, have an impact on the function of the gonadotrope axis.

More recently, we noticed the expression of an isoform of the transcription factor Tpit in ovaries and the structure of the protein encoded by this isoform led to the hypothesis that it could contribute to oocyte maturation. These observations suggest a putatively important role in reproductive performance. We currently study this hypothesis. As in our previous work, we use the spectrum of genetic, epigenetic and classical molecular biology approaches in the investigation of this hypothesis.

Members of the laboratory

Arthur Gouthier, BSc
MSc Student

Justine Gagnon, BSc
MSc Student

Juliette Harris, MSc
PhD Student

Virginie Bascunana, MSc
PhD Student

Ryhem Gam, MSc
PhD Student

Audrey Pelletier, MSc
PhD Student

Kevin Sochodolsk, MSc
PhD Student

Amandine Bemmo
Research Assistant – Bioinformatics

Yves Gauthier
Research Assistant

Konstantin Khetchoumian, PhD
Research Associate

Aurélio Balsalobre, PhD
Research Associate


André Tremblay, PhD

4 Jun 2019


Research interests

  • Cell biology of nuclear receptors
  • Hormonal response of reproductive tissues
  • Transcriptional mechanisms in breast and ovarian tumorigenesis

Nuclear receptors are transcription factors that control gene expression in response to hormonal stimulation. In the laboratory, we study in particular the  ERα and ERβ estrogen receptors that are responsible for the hormonal response of reproductive tissues, the RAR receptors that respond to vitamin A derivatives, and those in the PPAR family (α, β, and γ) which are essential regulators of energy metabolism.

Our studies allow to characterize the hormonal response with that of growth factors and cytokines on the regulation of target genes under the control of nuclear receptors. These studies will allow a better understanding of the role of cellular effectors in gynecological pathology and to identify new therapeutic targets.

Members of the laboratory

Samira Benhadjeba, MSc
PhD student

Véronique Caron, MSc
Research assistant

Lydia Edjekouane, MSc
PhD student

Loïze Maréchal, MSc
PhD student

Maximilien Laviolette, BSc
MSc student

Mélissa Bisson, BSc
MSc student

Jonathan Gagnon, MSc
PhD student

Baly Sow, BSc
MSc student


Jean-Claude Labbé, PhD

8 Jan 2019


Research interests

  • Self-renewal of germinal stem cells
  • Organization and function of the germinal syncytium
  • Cell polarity and mitosis

My research program aims to understand the fundamental mechanisms that govern cell division during animal development. We specifically focus on studying the different properties of germline stem cells in a classic model organism: the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.

One of these properties is stem cell self-renewal. Like all types of stem cells, C. elegans germline stem cells undergo self-renewal through contact with their niche, a single cell named DTC. We seek to understand how these germline stem cells polarize and orient their division axis to maintain contact with the niche, and thus ensure a balance between self-renewal and differentiation.

Another property of germline stem cells studied in my group is their organization as a syncytium, a conserved cellular architecture in which multiple cell nuclei share a common cytoplasm. We seek to understand the molecular mechanisms that control syncytial architecture formation, expansion and maintenance, in order to decipher the fundamental principles that govern this type of tissue organization.

As most C. elegans genes controlling cell division have a human homolog, our findings using the nematode may guide our understanding of gene function in several diseases, including cancer.

Members of the laboratory

Mohamed Réda Zellag, BSc
MSc student

Léa Lacroix, MSc
PhD student

Kimia Zarnani, MSc
PhD student

Eugénie Goupil, PhD
Research associate

Vincent Poupart, MSc
Research agent


William Pastor, PhD

22 Nov 2018


Research interests

  • Placental development
  • Epigenetics
  • Gene regulation

1. Placentation

In the first days of human life, distinct cells called trophoblasts are specified and go on to form most of the placenta. Given the critical importance of the placenta for fetal and maternal health, our lab will study transcriptional control of trophoblast specification and early placental development.

2. Heterochromatin establishment

Dramatic epigenetic changes occur in early human development. Most notably, there is a global increase in DNA methylation, an epigenetic mark critical for silencing genes and transposons. The methylation pattern established in early development is largely conserved through the rest of life. We will use stem cell based models to determine how DNA methyltransferases are regulated and how DNA methylation is patterned.

Members of the laboratory

Ishtiaque Hossein, MSc 
PhD student

Jessica Cinkornpumin, MSc
PhD student

Deepak Saini, MSc
PhD student

Nathalia Azevedo Portilho, PhD

Jacinthe Sirois, MSc
Research assistant

Nicolas Gévry, PhD

15 Aug 2018

Research interests

  • Hormone-dependent cancers and nuclear receptors
  • Regulation of gene expression in the ovaries
  • Systems Biology, Genomics and Bioinformatics

Nuclear receptors represent one of the largest families of transcription factors, including 48 identified members in the human genome. Transcriptional activation by most nuclear receptors is controlled by the binding of lipophilic molecules, such as hormones or metabolites including, for example, fatty acids and oxysterols. However, some receptors do not have a known ligand and are thus classified as orphan nuclear receptors. Our knowledge of the regulation of gene expression by nuclear receptors has expanded in recent years, mainly due to the observation that not only is the interaction of the receptor with DNA important in the transcriptional response, but also that coactivators, corepressors and the chromatin environment are crucial in the transmission of hormonal signals to the transcriptional machinery. Given the importance of nuclear receptors in endocrinology for their role in the development of specific diseases, a detailed understanding of their function will have an impact not only on human and animal biology, but also on the development of new drugs for the treatment of endocrine diseases such as breast and prostate cancers, obesity and infertility.
The general projects of the laboratory are:

  • To define the role of the LRH-1 nuclear receptor in the implementation of a gene expression program specific to triple negative breast cancer.
  • To determine the role of the NR5A2 nuclear receptor in prostate cancer and to evaluate its potential as a therapeutic target.
  • To explore the molecular determinants of NR5A1 and NR5A2 nuclear receptors in the ovary and fertility.
  • To define the molecular functions of the estrogen receptor in adipose tissue metabolism and its close link with the reproductive system

The approaches used by the laboratory to carry out these different projects are at the cutting edge of molecular and cellular biology. In addition, we make us of our expertise in systems biology, genomics and bioinformatics to respond to different biological questions in an original way.

Members of the laboratory

Fanny Morin, BSc
MSc student

Maude Albert St-Laurent, BSc
MSc student

Florence Gagnon, MSc 
PhD student

Erfan Sharifi, MSc
PhD student

Pooneh Chokhachi Baradaran, MSc
PhD student

Marine Daures, PhD

Marie-Ève Poisson, PhD
Lab and animal health technician

Mylène Brunelle, PhD
Research assistant

Stéphanie Bianco, PhD
Research assistant


Daniel Dufort, PhD

13 Feb 2018


  • 514 934-1934 Ext. 34743
  • daniel.dufort@mcgill.ca
  • Institut de recherche du Centre universitaire de santé McGill
    1001 boul Décarie
    Site Glen Pavilion E / Block E
    CHHD EM03230
    Montréal, QC H4A 3J1

Research interests

  • Elucidating the role of the Nodal signaling pathway in proper timing of parturition and how its deregulation leads to preterm birth in mice and humans
  • Deciphering the signals involved in maternal-fetal crosstalk
  • Determining how hormones and growth factors render the uterus receptive for embryo implantation

The research interests of my lab are in elucidating the embryo-uterine communication during pregnancy. We are using, molecular, embryological and well as genetic approaches to identify the signaling pathways and their roles in the implantation process, placental development and the initiation of parturition. Our current focus is elucidating the role of the Wnt and Nodal signaling pathways. Furthermore, we are also interested in elucidating the role of maternal signals in proper development and function of the placenta which are often associated with complications during pregnancy such as Preeclampsia and Preterm Birth.

Members of the laboratory

Rose Corneli
MSc student

Mansuba Rana, BSc
Master student

Sarah Yull, BSc
Master student

Parinaz Kazemi, PhD

Shiva Shafiei, MSc

Laurie Pinel, PhD


Benoit Barbeau, PhD

23 Dec 2017


  • 514 987-3000 poste 4576
  • Barbeau.benoit@uqam.ca
  • Université du Québec à Montréal
    Département des sciences biologiques, SB-3335
    2080, St-Urbain
    Montréal, Qc H2X 3X8
    Télécopieur : 514 987-4647

Research interests

  • Human endogenous retrovirus (hERV) envelope proteins and their role in in trophoblast fusion
  • Placental exosomes and the role of hERV proteins in their internalisation by target cells
  • Implication of hERV Env protein in immunosuppression

Our research interests are focussed on human exogenous retroviruses, such as HIV-1 and HTLV viruses and human endogenous retroviruses (hERV) in relation to their implication in the formation of the human placenta. We are currently conducting a series of studies aimed at the understanding of their role in placental functions and we are particularly concentrating our efforts on their association to obstetrical disorders, such as preeclampsia. Our efforts are first being centered on the regulation of these genes and of their mouse equivalent in placental cells, though the study of transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms. Secondly, our research team conducts a series of studies on placenta-derived exosomes. We have shown that, in pregnant women, these circulating microvesicles harboured Syncytin-1 and Syncytin-2, two hERV-derived proteins, on their surface. Alike for ancestral viruses, these proteins seem to provide a tropism to placental exosomes, and are thereby targeting their internalization by specific cell types expressing appropriate receptors on their surface. In addition, our results have suggested that Syncytin-2 levels are lower in serum-derived exosomes from pre-eclamptic women than in exosomes from normal pregnant women. These latter results argue for the potential future development of an early diagnostic tool for preeclampsia predisposition through the detection of Syncytin-2 in serum exosomes. Further experiments are currently aimed at looking at how expression of different hERV envelope proteins in placental cells might equally influence exosome targeting and determining how extensive does hERV envelope proteins contribute to targeting a wide variety of cell types.  In this context, the impact of hERV envelope-containing exosomes on differentiation states of villous/extravillous cytotrophoblasts and human endothelial cells and the activation state of immune cell populations, such as CD4+ and Cd8+ T cells, Treg, NK and DC cells become of high interest toward pregnancy and obstetric disorders linked to the placenta. The impact of other cellular factors, such as galectin-1 and tetherin on exosomes binding and release are also being closely examined.

Members of the laboratory

Clément Caté, MSc
PhD student

Zhenlong Liu, MSc
PhD student

Antoine Beaulieu
PhD student

Caroline Toudic, MSc
PhD student

Yong Xiao
Research associate


Alexandre Boyer

Alexandre Boyer, PhD

13 Dec 2017


Research interests

  • Role of signaling pathways in gonadal physiology and endocrine tissues
  • Development and tissue homeostasis
  • Transgenesis and functional genomics

My laboratory is interested in the mechanisms of action and the roles played by various signaling pathways in the development, the maintenance of tissue homeostasis and the functions of endocrine tissues such as the testis and the adrenal cortex. Over the past few years, our attention has focused on the role of the Hippo signaling pathway, an evolutionarily conserved pathway that plays crucial roles in cell proliferation and differentiation. Through functional genomic approaches (cell cultures and transgenic mouse models), we have recently demonstrated that this signaling pathway is essential for the development of the testes and the adrenal glands.

Currently, we are continuing our studies on this signaling pathway to understand its mechanism of action in mature Sertoli cells and gain a better understanding of how these cells maintain a structural, nutritional and immunoprotective environment necessary for the maturation of germ cells.

Members of the laboratory

Nour A. Nader, MSc
PhD student

Laureline Charrier
PhD student

Natalia Jakuc
PhD student (cosupervision)

Florine Grudet
PhD student (cosupervision)

Etienne Blais
MSc student (cosupervision)


Lawrence C. Smith, DVM, MSc, PhD

5 Dec 2017


Research interests

  • Epigenetic control of early embryo development
  • Stem cell reprogramming and differentiation
  • Assisted reproductive technologies

Our main field of interest is to investigate the role of epigenetics modifications during early embryogenesis in mammals. Using domestic and laboratory animal models, we have focused our investigations in understanding the consequences of cellular reprogramming on parent-specific genomic imprints in embryos and animals derived by somatic cell nuclear transfer (animal cloning) and induced pluripotent stem cells. Translational research projects have aimed at improving assisted reproductive techniques and in developing methods for the use of pluripotent stem cells in regenerative medicine.

Members of the laboratory

Bianca de Oliveira Horvath Pereira, Agr.Eng, MSc
PhD student

Fatima Mostefai
PhD student

Ricardo Perecin Nociti, DVM, MSc, PhD
Postdoc fellow

Jacinthe Therrien, BSc, MSc
Research assistant

Luis M. Aguila Paredes, DMV, PhD
Visiting professor


Makoto Nagano, PhD, DVM

23 Nov 2017


Research interests

  • Spermatogonial stem cells: Fate decision control
  • Spermatogonial stem cells: Male fertility preservation and restoration for boys and men
  • Technology: Cell separation, Transplantation, Stem cell propagation culture, Drug development

If a 6-year old boy must take cancer chemotherapy and will likely become infertile, no techniques are currently available that help him have genetic children in the future. For adults, sperm-banking is the option but it is not an option for prepubertal and adolescent boys. This is an important quality of life issue to the patient himself, but also to the patient’s family and his future partner. I investigate sperm-producing stem cells (spermatogonial stem cells, SSCs), which exist from the time of birth and throughout life, and critically, these cells provide an irreplaceable resource to preserve fertility of boys and men at any age. We expect that SSCs can be harvested from a patient before therapy, and following cryopreservation, transplanted back to the patient, resulting in the production of his own sperm. This scheme has already been realized in animal models. Why not with humans? This is our research goal.

Our current research focuses on three critical issues in SSC research.

First is to generate a fate map of SSC commitment in mice and humans. We ask, what are the steps of SSCs commitment to differentiation until they lose their stemness, and what occurs during the process? Through these efforts, we eventually want to “see” SSCs with our own eyes, which no one has been able to do since the first SSC concept proposed in 1885. Over several years, we have accumulated the abundance of important data using flow cytometry and the SSC transplantation assay. We can now purify mouse SSCs to the level that has not been reported before without using a transgenic marker gene or modifying cells in any way. We are currently analyzing single cell transcriptome data and hope to report our finding in the near future. A glimpse of this research activity can be seen on a YouTube video at “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYQPpoat6tg”.

The second area is to develop novel technologies to increase the SSC homing efficiency after transplantation. We collaborate with developmental biologists, clinical andrologists, and chemical engineers at McGill and have been designing and producing novel compounds in order to allow for more SSCs to engraft and regenerate spermatogenesis after transplantation. We envision that our new approach should make the restoration of male fertility after SSC transplantation more efficient and effective. The animal testing phase is near completion and we plan to move on to preclinical human studies.

The third area of our research is to apply human SSCs to clinical settings, including developing a reliable and reproducible human SSC culture to expand them and assess their genetic and epigenetic integrity during the culture period. We also believe that our first research aim (fate map) is a very essential research process to realize human SSC propagation in vitro, which has not been successful. For this aim, we collaborate with clinicians at the MUHC and researchers at the University of Pittsburgh

The Nagano lab constantly looks for new lab members, the enthusiastic people who are full of curiosity for nature, biology, and the mystery of creatures with whom we cannot share a language. At the level of postdoc, grad students, research assistant, or lab technician.  If you are interested, please email me at makoto.nagano@mcgill.ca.

Members of the laboratory

Sayaka Hansen
Summer Student

Youngmin Song, BSc
MSc Student

Amanda Baumholtz, PhD

Xiangfan Zhang, M.D, BSc
Research assistant

Joelle Desmarais, PhD
Research associate

Liang Ning, M.D
Visiting scholar


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