Dr. Jean-François Couture is a full professor and chair in the Department of Biochemistry-Microbiology-Immunology at the University of Ottawa. Dr. Couture graduated from Laval University in the department of physiology and endocrinology. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan. Dr. Couture became an Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa in 2007. In 2012, he was promoted to Associate Professor, then to Full Professor in 2016. Dr. Couture held a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Structural Biology and Epigenetics from 2008 to 2018. Dr. Couture has published over 90 papers with some of those published in journals such as Science, Genes & Dev and Cell. Trained as a protein crystallographer, Dr. Couture, throughout his career, has systematically used structural biology to further our comprehension of complex biological problems and identify small molecules for the treatment of cancers.
The Couture laboratory focuses on using structural biology approaches, such as X-ray crystallography, to understand the molecular underpinnings controlling proteins' functions. While our group focuses predominantly on proteins linked to epigenetic signaling, we have broadened our research interests in developing several fruitful collaborations over the years. Our research group is fortunate enough to be well supported by several funding agencies, including the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Natural Sciences, and Engineering Research Council, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation to pursue the following projects:
Epigenetics and Leukemia
Epigenetic processes are central to every aspect 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. We focus on the lysine methyltransferase 2 family (KMT2), a group of enzymes known to be heavily mutated in various forms of aggressive leukemias. The activity of these enzymes is exquisitely dependent on multiple regulatory subunits. Our goals are to understand the mechanisms controlling the association of these proteins with KMT2 enzymes and exploit this information to develop novel therapeutic approaches to treat leukemia.
Lysine methylation and Cancer
Lysine methylation is an essential post-transcriptional modification (PTM) deposited on a large variety of proteins. Recent studies have suggested that many of the enzymes able to deposit this PTM are also linked to various cancers. Yet, the identity of the substrates for each lysine methyltransferase (KMT) remains to be investigated. Our group uses multiple approaches to pair each KMT to their substrates and establish the underlying biological functions.
Structural basis for epigenetic signaling in plants
Like other eukaryotes, plants use epigenetic signaling to control a myriad of biological functions, including, but not limited to, growth, circadian clock, defense against pathogens, and reproduction. Yet, mechanistically, epigenetic signaling in plants has diverged from its mammalian counterparts in various aspects. Our group uses structural biology approaches to decipher these differences with the hope of harnessing the power of epigenetic signaling to improve the plant's biology.