Cathy Vaillancourt, PhD 

Associate Professor

Institut national de la recherché scientifique

Centre INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier

Université du Québec

531 boulevard des Prairies, édifice 18, PRF-K108

Laval, (Québec), H7V 1B7, Canada

Téléphone : 450-687-5010 Poste 8812

Fax : 450-686-5309

Courriel: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.          


Adjunct Professor

Université de Moncton

Département de chimie et biochimie

Moncton, NB



Chercheur régulier et Directrice de l’axe santé environnementale

Centre interdisciplinaire de recherche sur le bien-être, la santé, la société et l’environnement (Cinbiose)


Fields of research:

My laboratory is interested to elucidate the effect of environmental factors (contaminant, prenatal maternal stress, depression and antidepressants) and obstetric complications (preeclampsia, preterm birth and gestational diabetes) as well as the role/impact of foetal sex on placental endocrine function and foetal development. More specifically our studies focus on placental serotonin and melatonin systems. The mother-placental-foetal relationships present an original approach to examine the effects of pollutants and drugs, as well as maternal stress and depression which may have long-term consequences on the development of the foetus. Our ultimate aim is to insure an adequate foetal life and the best quality of life for the newborn all through adult life.  


Resume of results:

Our group have demonstrated that melatonin and serotonin are synthesized de novo and the expression of their receptors in human trophoblast. These tryptophan-derived hormones play a crucial role in placental function.

Stimulation of trophoblastic cells with melatonin prevents hypoxia/reoxygenation induced oxidative stress and mitochondrial apoptosis in villous trophoblast. Furthermore, our results show a significant decreased melatonin production as well as a decrease in MT1 but no modulation of MT2 melatonin receptor expression in placentas from preeclampsia as compared to normotensive pregnancies. These data strongly suggest that i) melatonin act as a local regulator in human trophoblast and play a protective role in pregnancy and foetal development and ii) alterations in placental melatonin synthesis and/or signalling are implicated in the pathophysiology of preeclampsia.

Placental serotonin regulates aromatase activity and oestrogens production via, in part, its 5-HT2A receptor and the activation of the PKC pathways. Furthermore, serotonin 5-HT2A receptor activation improves viability, increases DNA synthesis and activates JAK2-STAT3 and MEK1/2-ERK1/2 signalling pathways in trophoblast cells. Our group have also shown that serotonin 5-HT2A receptor and transporter are altered in human trophoblast from pregnant women exposed to low levels of environmental contaminant and with gestational diabetes mellitus compared to normal pregnancies. These data show an important role for serotonin in placental function and development, and suggest that placental serotonin system might be a new biomarker to help monitoring pregnancy and foetal development.


Laboratory members:



Email Address

Laetitia Laurent


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Eugênia Assuncao Salustiano


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Kathy Deroy


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Marc Fraser


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Andrée-Anne Hudon-Thibeault


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Joey St-Pierre


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Lucas Sagrillo Fagundes


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Talal Oufkir


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Ahmed Soliman


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Philippe Wong Yen


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Hélène Clabault (dir. T Sanderson)


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Pierre-Luc Gagné (dir. J Verreault)


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List of publications (2007-2015):

  1. Soliman A, Lacasse AA, Lanoix D, Sagrillo-Fagundes L , Boulard V, Vaillancourt C. Placental melatonin system is present throughout pregnancy and regulates villous trophoblast differentiation. J Pineal Res (accepted March 2015- in press)
  2. Barbaux S, Erwich J, Favaron P, Gil S, Gallot D, Golos T, Gonzalez-Bulnes A, Guibourdenche J, Heazell A, Jansson T, Laprévote O, Lewis R, Miller R, Monk D, Novakovic B, Oudejans C, Parast M, Peugnet P, Pfarrer C, Pinar H, Roberts C, Robinson W, Saffery R, Salomon C, Sexton A, Staff A, Suter M, Tarrade A, Wallace J, Vaillancourt C, Vaiman D, Worton S, Lash G. (2015) IFPA Meeting 2014 Workshop Report: animal models to study pregnancy pathologies; new approaches to study human placental exposure to xenobiotics; biomarkers of pregnancy pathologies; placental genetics and epigenetics; the placenta and stillbirth and fetal growth restriction. Placenta. 2015 Apr;36 Suppl 1:S5-S10. PMID: 25703592
  3. Fraser M, Rault P, Fortier M, Brousseau P, Fournier M, Surette C, Vaillancourt C (2014) Immune response of blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) in spawning period following exposure to metals. J of Xenobiotics 4:4895, 65-57.
  4. Dallagi A, Girouard J, Hamelin-Morrissette J, Dadzie R, Laurent L, Vaillancourt C, Lafond J, Reyes-Moreno. Trophoblast-derived factors regulate the activating effects of interferon-gamma in monocytes/macrophages through interleukin 10-mediated Stat3 activation and Stat1 inhibition. Cell Mol Immunol. 2014 Jul 14. doi: 10.1038/cmi.2014.50. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 25027966
  5. Ataee R, Ahmadi AA, Shadifar M, Ataie A, Vaillancourt C, Jafari-Sabet M, Oufkir T. (2014) Apoptosis is induced by curcumin in synergism with 5FU in human colorectal cancer cell line. Sci-Afric Journal of Scientific Issues, Research and Essays Vol. 2 (4) 147-150. (ISSN 2311-6188)
  6. Sagrillo-Fagundes L, Soliman A, Vaillancourt C. (2014) Maternal and placental melatonin: Actions and implication for successful pregnancies. MINERVA GINECOL;66:251-66 (ISSN 0026-4784) PMID: 24971781
  7. Hudon Thibeault AA, Deroy K, Vaillancourt C and Sanderson T (2014) A unique co-culture for fundamental and applied studies of human fetoplacental steroidogenesis and interference by environmental chemicals. Environ Health Perspect 122(4):371-7.. [Drs Sanderson and Vaillancourt, both corresponding authors, contributed equally to this work.]. PMID: 24486430
  8. Ritz SA, Antle DA, Côté J, Deroy K, Fraleigh N, Messing K, Parent L, St-Pierre J, Vaillancourt C, and Mergler D. (2014) First steps for integrating sex and gender considerations into basic experimental biomedical FASEB J 28:4-13 - PMID:24056086
  9. Fraser M, Rault P, Roumier PH, Fortier M, André C, Brousseau P, Gagné F, Fournier M, Surette C and Vaillancourt C. (2013) Decrease in phagocytosis capacity of hemocyte during spawning in Mytilus edulis: a pilot study. J of Xenobiotics 3(s1):e12/ doi:10.4081/xeno.2013.s1.e12
  10. Genest DS, Falcao S, Michel C, Kajla S, Germano MF, Lacasse AA, Vaillancourt C, Gutkowska J, and Lavoie JL. (2013) Novel role of the renin-angiotensin system in preeclampsia superimposed on chronic hypertension and the effects of exercise in a mouse model. Hypertension 62:1055-1061. - PMID: 24101664
  11. Lacaze-Masmonteil T, Lauriol E, Leis A, Normandeau J, Moreau D, Bouchard L, Vaillancourt C. (2013) Impact du contexte linguistique et culturel minoritaire sur le vécu de la grossesse. In suppl. La santé des populations de langue officielle en situation minoritaire. Can J Public Health 104(6)(Suppl. 1):S65-S70.
  12. Lanoix D, Lacasse AA*, Reiter J, Vaillancourt C. (2013) Melatonin: the watchdog of villous trophoblast homeostasis against hypoxia/reoxygenation-induced oxidative stress and apoptosis. Mol Cell Endocrinol 381 : 35-45 - PMID: 23886990
  13. Fraser M, Surette C, Vaillancourt C. (2013) Fish and seafood availability in markets in the Baie des Chaleurs region, New Brunswick, Canada: A heavy metal contamination baseline study. Environmental Sci. Pollution Res. 20 (2) 761-770 - PMID: 22961483
  14. Lanoix D, Guérin P, Vaillancourt C. (2012) Melatonin production and receptor expression are altered in preeclampsia: new insight on the role of this hormone in pregnancy. J Pineal Res. 53 : 417-425 -PMID: 22686298
  15. Lanoix D, Lacasse AA*, St-Pierre J, Taylor SC, Ethier-Chiasson M, Lafond J and Vaillancourt C. (2012) Quantitative PCR pitfalls: the case of the human placenta. Mol Biotechnol. 52(3) 234-243 - PMID: 22528553
  16. Lanoix D, St-Pierre J, Lacasse, AA, Viau M, Lafond J, Vaillancourt C. (2012) Stability of reference proteins in the human placenta: general protein stains are the benchmark. Placenta 33 (3) 151-156- PMID: 22244735
  17. Lanoix D, Lacasse AA*, Reiter RJ, Vaillancourt C. (2012) Melatonin: The smart killer. The human trophoblast as a model. Molecular Cellular Endocrinology 348 : 1-11 - PMID: 21889572
  18. Dubé E, Vaillancourt C, Lafond J, Belkacemi L. (2012) Gestational Diabetes Affects Placental-Fetal Development.. In : Pregnancy disorders and perinatal outocomes, ebook publication, Bentham Science Publishers, Editors : J Lafond et C Vaillancourt. Chapter 6; 88-96
  19. Lanoix D*, Haché S, Dubé E, Lafond J, Vaillancourt C. (2012)Placental Disorders in Preeclampsia: Maternal and Perinatal Outcomes. In : Pregnancy disorders and perinatal outocomes, ebook publication, Bentham Science Publishers, Editors : J Lafond et C Vaillancourt. Chapter 7; 97-128.
  20. Belkacemi L, Vaillancourt C, Dubé E, Lafond J. (2012) Insulin-interfering hormones, nutrient metabolism and transport in placentas from gestational diabetic pregnancies. In : Advances in Medicine and Biology. Vol. 44 pp. 165-180. Editors: Leon V. Berhardt, Nova Publishers. ISBN: 978-1-62100-909-2.
  21. Oufkir T* and Vaillancourt C. (2011) Phosphorylation of JAK2 by serotonin 5-HT2A-receptor activates both STAT3 and ERK1/2 pathways and increases growth of JEG-3 human placental choriocarcinomal cell. Placenta 32 : 1033-1040 -PMID: 21993263
  22. Klempan TA*, Hudon-Thibeault AA*, Oukir T*, Vaillancourt C, and Sanderson JT. (2011) Stimulation of serotonergic 5-HT2A receptor signalling increases placental aromatase (CYP19) activity and expression in BeWo and JEG-3 human choriocarcinoma cells. Placenta. 32(9):651-6. [Drs Sanderson and Vaillancourt, both corresponding authors, contributed equally to this work.] - PMID: 21703684
  23. Fraser, M., Surette, C. and Vaillancourt, C. (2011) Spatial and temporal distribution of heavy metal concentrations in mussels (Mytilus edulis) from the Baie des Chaleurs, New Brunswick, Canada. Marine Pollution Bulletin –Baseline paper. 62(6):1345-51. - PMID: 21507426
  24. Abad C, Antczak DF, Carvalho J, Chamley LW, Chen Q, Daher S, Damiano AE, Dantzer V, Díaz P, Dunk CE, Daly E, Escudero C, Falcón B, Guillomot M, Han YW, Harris LK, Huidobro-Toro JP, Illsley N, Jammes H, Jansson T, Johnson GA, Kfoury JR Jr, Marín R, Murthi P, Novakovic B, Myatt L, Petroff MG, Pereira FT, Pfarrer C, Redman CW, Rice G, Saffery R, Tolosa JM, Vaillancourt C, Wareing M, Yuen R, Lash GE. (2011) IFPA Meeting 2010 Workshop Report I: Immunology; ion transport; epigenetics; vascular reactivity; epitheliochorial placentation; proteomics. Placenta. 32 Suppl 2:S81-9. -PMID: 21227506
  25. Ziapour P, Ataee R, Shadifar M, Vaillancourt C, Ahmadi A., Sabet MJ, Ataee A. (2011) New intracellular and molecular aspects in pathophysiology of colorectal cancer Gastroenterology and Hepatology From Bed to Bench.4(2):43-52
  26. Falcao S, Bisotto S, Michel C, Lacasse AA, Vaillancourt C, Gutkowska J, Lavoie J. (2010) Exercise training can attenuate preeclampsia-like symptoms in an animal model. J of Hypertension 28 (12): 2446-2453 PMID: 20811291
  27. Charil A, Laplante D.P., Vaillancourt C., King S. Prenatal stress and brain development (2010). Brain Res Rev. 65 (1) 59-76. - PMID: 20550950
  28. Lanoix D, Vaillancourt C. (2010) Cell Culture Media Formulation And Supplementation Affect Villous Trophoblast hCG Release. Letter to the editor. Placenta. 31: 558-559 - PMID: 20452669
  29. Le Bellego F, Belkacemi L, Vaillancourt C and Lafond J. (2010) Placental exchange: maternal-fetal calcium transfer In: Physiology of Maternal-Fetal relationship, Chapter 4 : 55-80, Research Signpost, Kerala, India.
  30. Vaillancourt C and Lafond J. (2010) Mother-Fetus relationship In: Physiology of Maternal-Fetal relationship, Chapter 1 : 1-2, Research Signpost, Kerala, India.
  31. Oufkir T*, Arsenault M*, Sanderson JT, Vaillancourt C. (2010) The 5-HT2A serotonin receptor enhances cell viability, affects cell cycle progression and activates MEK–ERK1/2 and JAK2–STAT3 signalling pathways in human choriocarcinoma cell lines. Placenta 31 : 439-447 - PMID: 20338635
  32. Viau M, Lafond J., Vaillancourt C (2009) Expression of placental serotonin transporter and 5-HT2A-receptor in normal and gestational diabetes mellitus pregnancies Reproductive BioMedecine Online 19 (2) 207-215 - PMID: 19712556
  33. Vaillancourt C, LeBellego F, Lanoix D*, Daoud G, Lafond J. (2009) Role of trophoblast differentiation during pregnancy and fetal development. Mini Rev Med Chem. 9(8):962-973. - PMID: 19601892
  34. Vaillancourt C. and Lafond J. (2009) Human Embryogenesis: Overview. Dans : Human Embryogenesis : Methods and Protocols, Methods Mol Biol. Vol. 550: pp.3-7, Humana Press, US.- PMID: 19495694
  35. Mounier C, Barbeau B, Vaillancourt C, and Lafond J.(2009) Endocrinology and Cell Signaling in Human Villous Trophoblast. In : Human Embryogenesis : Methods and Protocols. Methods Mol Biol. Vol. 550: pp.89-102, Humana Press, US. - PMID: 19495698
  36. LeBellego F, Vaillancourt C, Lafond J. (2009) Isolation and culture of term human cytotrophoblast cells and in vitro methods for studying human cytotrophoblast cells calcium uptake. Dans : Human Embryogenesis : Methods and Protocols. Methods Mol Biol. Vol. 550: pp.73-87, Humana Press, US. - PMID: 19495697
  37. Lanoix D, Beghdadi H, Lafond J, Vaillancourt C. (2008) Human placental trophoblasts synthesize melatonin and express its receptors. J Pineal Res 45: 50-60. PMID: 18312298
  38. Lanoix D*, Ouellette RJ., Vaillancourt C. (2006) Expression of melatoninergic receptors in human placenta and choriocarcinoma cells Human Reprod. 21(8) : 1981-1989. (Selected as 1 of 5 best paper-Reproductive Biomedecine- The 8th Royan International Research Award) PMID: 16632463
  39. Sonier B, Arseneault M, Lavigne C, Ouellette RJ, Vaillancourt C. (2006) The 5-HT2A serotoninergic receptor is expressed in the MCF-7 cell line and reveals a mitogenic effect of serotonin in breast cancer. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 343 (4): 1053-1059. - PMID: 16580628
  40. Sonier B, Lavigne C, Arseneault M*, Ouellette RJ, Vaillancourt C. (2005) Expression of 5-HT2A serotoninergic receptor in human placenta and choriocarcinoma cells, JEG-3 ET BeWo : Mitogenic implications of serotonin. Placenta 26; 484-490. PMID: 15950062
  41. Lafond J, Hamel A, Takser L, Vaillancourt C, Mergler D. (2004) Low environnemental contaminantion by lead in pregnant women : Effect on calcium transfer in human placental syncytiotrophoblasts. J. Toxicol Env. Health A 67 :1-11. - PMID: 15205024
  42. Vaillancourt C, Cyr M, Rochford J, Boksa P, DiPaolo T. (2002) Effect of ovariectomy and estradiol on acoustic startle response. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 74 (1) 103-109 - PMID: 12376157
  43. Berger N, Vaillancourt C, Boksa P. (2000) Genetic factors modulate effects of C-section birth on dopaminergic function in the rat. Neuroreport. 11(3):639-43. PMID: 10718328
  44. Berger N, Vaillancourt C, Boksa P. (2000) Interactive effects of anoxia and general anesthesia during birth on the degree of CNS and systemic hypoxia produced in neonatal rats. Exp Brain Res. 131(4):524-31 - PMID: 10803420
  45. Vaillancourt C and Boksa P. (2000) Birth insults alters dopamine-mediated behavior in a precocial species, the guinea pig: implications for schizophrenia. Neuropsychopharmacology 23: 654-666. - PMID: 11063921
  46. Vaillancourt C, Berger N, Boksa P. (1999) Effects of vaginal versus Caesarean section birth with general anesthesia on blood gases and brain energy metabolism in neonatal rats. Exp. Neurol. 160; 142-150.- PMID: 10630199
  47. Vaillancourt C and Boksa P. (1998) Caesarean section birth with general anesthesia increases dopamine-mediated behavior in the adult rat. Neuroreport. 9 (13) 2953-2959. PMID: 9804297
  48. Vaillancourt C, Petit A., Bélisle S. (1998) Expression of human placental D2-dopamine receptor during normal and abnormnal pregnancies. Placenta. 19 (1) 73-80. PMID: 9481788
  49. Vaillancourt C, Petit A, Bélisle S. (1997) Interaction of D2 -dopamine receptor with two pertussis-toxin sensitive G proteins in human placenta. Life Sci.60 (16) 1365-1375. - PMID: 9096257
  50. Vaillancourt C, Petit A, Bélisle S. (1995) Inhibition of angiotensine II-stimulated inositol phosphate production by D2-dopamine receptor is calcium-dependent in trophoblastic cells. Life Sci. 57 (9) 847-854. PMID: 7630313
  51. Vaillancourt C, Petit A, Bélisle S. (1994) D2-dopaminergic agonists inhibit adenosine 3’ : 5’-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP) in human term trophosblastic cells. Life Sci. 55(20) : 1545-1552. PMID: 7968225
  52. Vaillancourt C, Petit A, Gallo-Payet N, Bellabarba D, Lehoux J-G., Bélisle S. (1994) Labelling of D2-dopaminergic and 5-HT2-serotonergic binding sites in human trophoblastic cells using [3H]-spiperone.. J. Recept. Res. 14(1) : 11-22. PMID: 8158579
  53. Petit A., Gallo-Payet N, Vaillancourt C., Bellabarba D, Lehoux J-G, Bélisle S. (1993) A role for extracellular calcium in the regulation of placental lactogen release in human term trophoblastic cells. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 77 : 670-676. PMID: 7690361
  54. Petit A, Vaillancourt C, Bellabarba D, Lehoux J-G, Gallo-Payet N, Bélisle S. (1990) Presence of D2-dopamine receptors in human term placenta. J. Recept. Res. 10: 205-215. PMID: 2148190



Pregnancy disorders and perinatal outocomes, ebook publication, Bentham Science Publishers, Editors : J Lafond et C Vaillancourt (eds). 2012 Bentham Science Publishers,US, eBooks, pp. 152. eISBN : 978-1-60805-372-8. doi: 10.2174/97816080537281120101

Physiology of Maternal-Fetal relationship, J Lafond and C Vaillancourt (eds). 2010 Research Signpost, Kerala, India pp 169. ISBN: 978-81-308-0378-4

Human Embryogenesis : Methods and Protocols. Series: Methods in Molecular Biology, Vol. 550. Lafond, Julie; Vaillancourt, Cathy (Eds.), 2009, IX, 295 p. 62 illus., 8. Humana Press, US. ISBN: 978-1-60327-008-3 (Print) 978-1-60327-009-0 (Online)



26 mars 2014              La molécule qui vous veut du bien. Planète INRS // par Pascale Millot http://www.planete.inrs.ca/webzine/la-molecule-qui-vous-veut-du-bien

5 septembre 2013          Deuxième colloque du Groupe de la francophonie placentaire (GfP). La recherche sur les multiples rôles du placenta mise en commun à Montréal// par Stéphanie Thibault Source URL: http://www.iaf.inrs.ca/actualites/la-recherche-sur-les-multiples-roles-du-placenta-mise-en-commun-a-montreal

Nov 2012             Biotechnology; PCR News | 2012 Year in Review- 12/11/2012 Andrew S. Wiecek Source URL: http://www.biotechniques.com/news/PCR-News--2012-Year-in-Review/biotechniques-338156.html#.UO3ReI4wLJg

Vaillancourt C and Taylor S (2012) How to Produce Conclusive, Reproducible RT-qPCR Data Every Time. GEN Genetics Engeneering and Biotechnology news. The Blogs July 27, 2012. http://www.genengnews.com/blog-biotech/how-to-produce-conclusive-reproducible-rt-qpcr-data-every-time/713/

July, 2012. New Study Demonstrates False Conclusions Reached if MIQE Not Followed in HumanPlacenta Quantitative PCR Studies. By S Taylon and Ken Li, Hercules, CA. (posted on Bio-Rad's website July 2, 2012).

Fev, 2012 How Reliable is Real-Time PCR? (by Sarah C.P. Williams). In: Biotechniques - The International Journal for Life Science Method. 05/02/2012

May, 2012. La tête au carrée : France Inter (Mai 2012)

2011. Le cerveau de l’embryon sous le contrôle du placenta (entrevue réalisée par Anne Debroise). Magazine scientifique “La Recherche” http://www.larecherche.fr/content/2_impression/article?id=30020