Neurobiology and Development

Molecular Genetics

Under the direction of Jacques Drouin

Research Unit

The control of gene expression is essential for development of complex organisms. It represents the implementation of the blueprint encoded in our genome and its alteration, either through mutations or epigenetic perturbations, cause developmental malformations, more or less detrimental deficiencies and cancer. The Molecular Genetics Research Unit has investigated those mechanisms from basic principles all the way to their applications in human health.

In particular, Jacques Drouin's team discovered novel regulators of gene expression, such as the Pitx subfamily that controls pituitary and craniofacial development (Pitx1), identity of legs compared to arms (Pitx1), left-right asymmetry (Pitx2), muscle development (Pitx2 and Pitx3) and survival of the dopaminergic neurons that degenerate in Parkinson disease (Pitx3). In recent years, the group has contributed critical insight into the mechanism of action of pioneer factors that remodel the epigenome for specification of cell fate. 

The laboratory also discovered the factor Tpit that drives differentiation of the hormone-producing POMC cells of the pituitary and that causes, when mutated, a hormone deficiency that is lethal to newborns but entirely treatable by hormone replacement therapy. Investigations of the mechanisms of hormone action led the group to identify critical deregulations that cause hormone resistance in Cushing disease and that contribute to the development of these highly deleterious adenomas.

Jacques Drouin

Research Unit Director

  • Director, Molecular Genetics Research Unit, IRCM
  • Full IRCM Research Professor
  • Full Research Professor, Department of Biochemistry (accreditation in molecular biology), Université de Montréal
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Medicine (Division of Experimental Medicine), Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, and Department of Biochemistry, McGill University
  • Fellow, Royal Society of Canada

Awards and honours

  • Fellow, Royal Society of Canada
  • Ph.D. Honoris Causa, Aix-Marseille University, France, 2014

Degrees and relevant experience

  • D.Sc. in Physiology, Université Laval, Supervisor Dr Fernand Labrie
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, United Kingdom (1976 -1978), Supervisor Dr Fred Sanger
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), USA (1979-1981), Supervisor Dr Howard M. Goodman
  • Research Scholar, Medical Research Council of Canada (1981-1986)
  • Scientist, Medical Research Council of Canada (1986-1991)
  • Chair in Molecular Genetics, GlaxoSmithKline (1999-2004)
  • Elected to the Academy of Sciences of the Royal Society of Canada (2001)
Jacques Drouin
Research Unit Director
Aurélio Balsalobre
Research Associate
Virginie Bascunana
PhD student
Amandine Bemmo
Research Assistant
Justine Gagnon
M.Sc. student
Ryhem Gam
PhD student
Yves Gauthier
Research Assistant
Arthur Gouhier
M.Sc. student
Juliette Harris
PhD Student
Konstantin Khetchoumian
Research Associate

Projets en cours


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Contact information

Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM)
110, des Pins Avenue West
Montréal, Québec  H2W 1R7

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Neurobiology and Development