News & Announcements

The launch of the China-Canada Center of Research for Digestive Diseases (ccCRDD)

The Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology (BMI), Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, together with The Institute of Digestive Diseases, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese (SUTCM), and The Pi-Wei Institute, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine (GUCM), have launched the China-Canada Center of Research for Digestive Diseases (ccCRDD), a joint integrative medicine research facility in the field of digestive diseases. The opening ceremony was held on April 8th 2015 in GUCM campus and April 10th 2015 in SUTCM campus, respectively. A sequel ceremony for the BMI campus is scheduled for the fall of 2015.

The objectives of ccCRDD aim at modernization and internationalization of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) through integration with therapeutic concepts and methodologies of Western medicine. The efficacy of TCM in the treatment of metabolic syndromes, specifically abnormalities in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in the digestive system, will vigorously interrogated at cellular and molecular levels using systems biology-based approach. The ccCRDD offers rich opportunities in scientific collaboration at institution levels through facilitating mobility of professors and trainees and establishing joint research projects.

Dr. Alain Stintzi' Research Group

The research group led by Dr. Alain Stintzi, a scientist at the Ottawa Institute of Systems Biology and Department of BMI, has discovered a group of genes that control the bacterial virulence of Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni). Campylobacter jejuni is a common gastrointestinal pathogen in humans and a common commensal colonizer of poultry.  C. jejuni lacks several common metabolic pathways and was therefore thought not to use fructose as a carbon source for growth. However, Dr. Stintzi’s  group has recently identified a group of genes (cj0480c-cj0490) that allow C. jejuni to use fucose as a substrate for growth, thereby linking a new metabolic pathway in C. jejuni with its virulent lifestyle. Their work is published in the Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Apr 26;108(17):7194-9, and highlighted by the Consortium for Functional Glycomics (CFG) and Nature Publishing Group at

Dr. Ilona S. Skerjanc' Research Group

The research group led by Dr. Ilona S. Skerjanc, a professor at the Department of BMI, has identified the first kinase that regulates the expression of two important muscle factors (namely MyoD and Myf5) in embryonic stem cells and muscle progenitor stem cells. In a recent publication at EMBO Journal (, Dr. Al-Madhoun and his colleagues delineated the importance of MEF2C phosphorylation and the recruitment of histone acetyltransferases in the lineage specification of skeletal muscle. They further found a non-myosin phosphorylation substrate for the skeletal muscle myosin light chain kinase (skMLCK), which may control the replenishment of muscle stem cells. Their findings provide new insights into skeletal muscle development and have important impact on the clinical treatment.

Dr. Couture' Research Group

One of the long-standing questions in the field of chromatin biology is how histone-modifying enzymes are tethered to a specific promoter region. Dr. Couture laboratory at OISB and BMI has recently found that Ash2L, a protein interacting with the histone H3 lysine 4 methyltransferase MLL1, harbors a novel helix-wing-helix DNA binding domain that is needed for targeting and H3K4 trimethylation in vivo. Given that MLL1 is linked to acute forms of leukemia, these findings will eventually guide structure-based drug discoveries for the treatment of leukemia and other MLL-linked disorders. Their work is published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology (Sarvan, et al. 2011

Figure 1

(a) Overall structure of ASH2L N-terminal domain. β-strands and α-helices are rendered in blue and orange, respectively; the zinc atom is depicted in green. (b) ASH2L harbors a structurally conserved helix-wing-helix domain. Evolutionarily conserved surface residues are colored according to the sequence alignment (Supplementary Fig. 1). (c) Superimposition of ASH2L and FOXO4 HWH domains. ASH2L is rendered as in a, and FOXO4 is colored in gray. (d,e) Electrostatic potential surface of FOXO4 (d) and ASH2L (e). DNA carbon atoms are rendered in yellow. Electrostatic potentials are contoured from +10 kBTe−1 (blue) to −10 kBTe−1 (red), where e is the electron, T is temperature and kB is the Boltzmann constant. Arrows indicate the canonical and putative DNA binding α-helix of FOXO4 and ASH2L.

Dr. Couture's Research

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Last updated: 2015.09.08