Alexandre Blais

Our lab studies gene regulatory proteins called transcription factors and the critical role that they play in the formation and healing of skeletal muscle. We are interested in understanding, at the molecular level, the mode of action of these proteins and how they might cooperate together to control this important health-related process. We address this question by combining the power of genomics with bioinformatic methods.

The Blais lab accepts students from graduate programs in Biochemistry and Human Molecular Genetics.

A microscopic image of a regenerating mouse muscle

Immunofluorescence detection of myogenic transcription factors in the regenerating tibialis anterior muscle of a mouse

Research Program

Our lab studies how certain proteins, called transcription factors, govern the fate of cells. In particular, transcription factors determine which genes are going to be expressed in a given cell but not another, so they can have a profound impact on the identity and function of all cells of the human body. Our research group aims to determine the mode of action of transcription factors involved in skeletal muscle development and regeneration and the control of cell proliferation.

In our study of myogenesis, we have found that two transcription factors called Six1 and Six4 participate in controlling the ability of muscle precursor cells to differentiate into mature muscle fibers. Using ChIP-seq technology, we have determined the identity of the genes regulated by Six1 and Six4 and have started to elucidate the mode of action of these two proteins. We have found that they often target genes that are also regulated by the MyoD transcription factor, which is important because MyoD is seen as the master regulator of skeletal muscle formation. We are now investigating how Six1, Six4 and MyoD cooperate by looking at the structure of DNA and chromatin at their common target genes.

The cell division cycle is a very fundamental process that allows cellular proliferation, tissue growth and homeostasis. Transcription factors are needed to control cell division in a very tight manner, because unbridled proliferation can lead to cancer. We are using functional genomics techniques to understand how this precise regulation of the cell cycle is made possible and what the consequences of deregulation can be.

Back to top