Systems Biology and Medicinal Chemistry

Biochemistry of Epigenetic Inheritance

Under the direction of Nicole Francis

Research Unit

The ability of cells to acquire and maintain stable differentiated states is central to development. Nicole J. Francis’s lab is interested in how the gene expression patterns that define cellular states can be inherited across cell generations and how this might involve heritable changes to chromatin. The idea that chromatin structure carries heritable (epigenetic) information is attractive because of its conceptual simplicity—epigenetic and genetic information are inherited together. However, this idea raises questions about how chromatin features can be inherited through cell cycles since both DNA replication and mitosis disrupt chromatin structure. 

The goal of the team’s work is to discover the biochemical mechanisms that enable chromatin states to be propagated through DNA replication and mitosis. They address these questions using the Polycomb Group (PcG) proteins of Drosophila melanogaster.

Nicole Francis

Research Unit Director

  • Director, Systems Biology and Medicinal Chemistry Research Division
  • Director, Biochemistry of Epigenetic Inheritance Research Unit
  • Associate IRCM Research Professor
  • Associate Research Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, Université de Montréal
  • Research Scholar from the John-R.-Evans Leaders Fund, Canada Foundation for Innovation

Awards and honours

  • Searle Scholar Award, Kinship Foundation
  • Basil O’Connor Scholar Award, March of Dimes
  • New Scholar Award, The Ellison Medical Foundation

Degrees and relevant experience

  • B.Sc. in Biology, McGill University, Montreal, QC (1989-1993)
  • PhD in Neuroscience, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH (1993-2000)
  • Postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Robert Kingston, Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital (2000-2004), Boston, MA
  • Assistant Professor, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (2004-2008)
  • Associate Professor, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (2008-2012)
Nicole Francis
Research Unit Director
Elodie Boulier
Research Assistant
Julien Malette
Research Assistant
Celia Alecki
PhD student
Aurélie Huang-Sung
M.Sc. student
Jin Joo Kang
Postdoctoral Fellow
Yoon Soon Kang
Postdoctoral Fellow
Pandimadevi Djamouna Sihou
PhD Student
Mélanie Candido
Administrative Assistant

Projects and major discoveries


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Contact information

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

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Systems Biology and Medicinal Chemistry