Jean-François Couture

Our laboratory focuses on understanding the mechanisms that cause leukemia. Specifically, we want to understand how the protein Myeloid Lymphoma Leukemia (MLL) participates in cancer progression and aggressiveness. MLL is sometimes compared to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: it is very important for embryonic development, but when the protein is mutated its activities become uncontrolled, which ultimately participates in the appearance of acute leukemia. In studying MLL, we hope to find new therapeutic avenues for the treatment of acute leukemias.

The Couture lab accepts students from graduate programs in Biochemistry.

A computer model showing the structure of proteins surrounding chromatin

Crystal structure of SET domain enzymes surrounding their chromatin substrates

Research Program

Epigenetic processes are central to every aspects of cell biology. Our laboratory is interested in fundamental questions of how the interactions between proteins and chromatin shape gene expression, how post-translational modification of chromatin determines the structure of the chromosomes and how mutations related to cancers such as leukemia sabotage epigenetic processes. The roots of our research program are in the power of x-ray crystallography. This technique helps us gain insights into the structures of chromatin-interacting proteins at high resolution and therefore provides solid basis for the designs of novel therapeutic molecules. When combining x-ray crystallography with other in vitro and in vivo techniques, we can relate the shape of proteins to their functions in solution and in a cancer cell environment. Overall, our research will lead to a better understanding of how epigenetic processes contribute to various human diseases and will have a positive influence in a clinical setting.

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