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How to reach us:
Université de Sherbrooke
Faculté des Sciences
Département de biologie
2500, boul. de l'Université
Sherbrooke Québec J1K 2R1

Room D8-3064

(819) 821-8000, ext: 65011

(819) 821-8049

Lab telephone:
(819) 821-8000, ext: 65413

Daniel Lafontaine

Professor,Chercheur-Boursier Senior FRSQ
Adjunct professor, Université du Québec à Montréal (2002-2003)
EMBO Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Dundee (UK, 1999-2002)

Member of the following organizations:
Université de Sherbrooke Centre of Excellence in RNA Biology
Institut de Pharmacologie de Sherbrooke
Centre de recherche clinique Étienne-Le Bel


Positions are available for postdocs, MSc and PhD students.

Research interests

Numerous regulatory mechanisms are known to control gene expression in response to cellular changes. Most well-characterized among these ones are the mechanisms controlling transcription, translation and mRNA stability. Within the past several years, discoveries have revealed that regulatory RNA structures are often used for transcriptional control of essential genes in bacteria and eukaryotes. Riboswitches are untranslated cis-acting mRNA elements that directly bind cellular metabolites and alter the expression of downstream genes that are almost always associated with biosynthesis or transport of a target metabolite. These RNA switches function in absence of protein cofactors and are essentially metabolite sensors using feedback control mechanisms to appropriately modulate the associated metabolite biosynthetic pathway(s). More than 2% of the genes in certain bacteria are riboswitch regulated where many are expected to be essential under most growth conditions; interference with riboswitch function is thus predicted to result in dramatic destabilization of vital metabolic pathways. It is therefore likely that small compounds can serve as antimicrobial drugs by targeting crucial bacterial riboswitches.

In our laboratory, we are studying how metabolites are used by riboswitches to perform their vital biological function. A wide array of techniques is used to monitor the cellular activity of riboswitches and their associated mechanism(s). In addition, we are interested to understand how the folding of RNA is involved in the riboswitch regulation process. Here, given the inherent dynamic nature of riboswitches, we are using Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) which is one of the most powerful techniques to study the ligand binding-induced RNA folding of riboswitches. We would also like to use lessons learned to develop novel genetic control elements.

In the news

Our paper published in Nature Communications (2017) was highlighted by the Université de Sherbrooke.You can see it here (in french).

We have presented our research during the TEDxUdeS 2012 event. More information here.

Our research concerning antibiotic development has been mentioned in the Innovation 2011 magazine. More information here.

Our research has recently been honored during the "Gala d'excellence 2011 de la recherche médicale du CHUS". More information here.

We have received from Québec Science the prize "Découverte de l'année 2010" which was awarded by the public. You can read the news here.

Our research on the antibiotic design was selected by Québec Science as part of the 10 best discoveries of the year 2010. You can read the article here.

Our research has been highlighted in a documentary by Le Code Chastenay in November 2010. You can see it here (in french).

One of our papers has been published in Chemistry and Biology and we have made the cover page.

The abstract of the paper is available on the NCBI.

The Courrier des Sciences has published an article that talks about our research (in french)

Moreover, our research perceived by the humoristic cartoon Le clin d'oeil du mois made by the biologist Benoît Leblanc.

Research group 2016

Selected publications from our lab:

• Transcriptional pausing at the translation start site operates as a critical checkpoint for riboswitch regulation.
Chauvier A, Picard-Jean F, Berger-Dancause JC, Bastet L, Naghdi MR, Dubé A, Turcotte P, Perreault J, Lafontaine DA.
Nature Communications, 8:13892, 2017.

• Cyclic di-GMP riboswitch-regulated type IV pili contribute to aggregation of Clostridium difficile.
Bordeleau E, Purcell EB, Lafontaine DA, Fortier LC, Tamayo R, Burrus V.
J Bacteriol, 197:819-32, 2015.

• A new telomerase RNA element that is critical for telomere elongation.
Laterreur N, Eschbach S, Lafontaine DA, Wellinger R.
Nucleic Acids Res, 41:7713-24, 2013.

• Dual-acting riboswitch control of translation initiation and mRNA decay.
Caron MP, Bastet L, Lussier A, Simoneau-Roy M, Massé E, Lafontaine DA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA, 109:E3444-53, 2012.

• Molecular insights into the ligand-controlled organization of the SAM-I riboswitch.
Heppell B, Blouin S, Dussault AM, Mulhbacher J, Ennifar E, Penedo JC, Lafontaine DA.
Nature Chem Biol, 7:384-92, 2011.

• Comparative study between transcriptionally- and translationally-acting adenine riboswitches reveals key differences in riboswitch regulatory mechanisms.
Lemay JF, Desnoyers G, Blouin S, Heppell B, Bastet L, St-Pierre P, Massé E, Lafontaine DA.
PLoS Genetics, 7:e1001278, 2011.

• Novel riboswitch ligand analogs as selective inhibitors of guanine-related metabolic pathways.
Mulhbacher J, Brouillette E, Allard M, Fortier LC, Malouin F, Lafontaine DA.
PLoS Pathogens, 6:e1000865, 2010.

• Riboswitch structure: an internal residue mimicking the purine ligand.
Delfosse V, Bouchard P, Bonneau E, Dagenais P, Lemay JF, Lafontaine DA, Legault P.
Nucleic Acids Res, 38:32057-68, 2010.

• Folding of the adenine riboswitch.
Lemay JF, Penedo JC, Tremblay R, Lilley DM, Lafontaine DA.
Chem Biol, 13:857-68, 2006.