Nathalie Bissonnette, PhD.

Image Nathalie Bissonnette
Research Scientist, animal genomics

Helping to advance animal health research and encourage natural resistance to disease using an integrated approach in animal genomics.

Current research and/or projects

Dr Nathalie Bissonnette focuses her research activities on animal immunogenetics, immunotolerance and immunoregulation in response to nutrients, the environment and contacts with pathogens. This includes identifying genetic and epigenetic markers and environmental factors that influence the immune system. Her research helps formulate nutritional interventions that support natural resistance to disease. She uses advanced sequencing technologies and next‑generation genotyping to identify genetic and epigenetic markers, gene expression profiles (transcriptome) and network regulators (IncRNAs, microRNAs) that govern resistance or sensitivity to disease, particularly to bovine paratuberculosis.

Dr Nathalie Bissonnette joined Agriculture and Agri‑Food Canada’s Sherbrooke Research and Development Centre in 2001. She has used her expertise in molecular biology and animal genomics in numerous projects, primarily relating to pigs and dairy cows. Her work targets the following sector goals: (1) eliminating threats in the agriculture and agri-food value chain; (2) supporting a healthy agricultural sector.

Research and/or project statements

Uncovering susceptibility to paratuberculosis by studying the host’s genetics and the dynamics of the infection of strains with varied genetics (mixed genotype infection) to understand susceptibility to and disease progression – Growing Forward 3 (AAFC), Dairy cluster

Animal genomics for resistance to paratuberculosis – Project targeted by AAFC

Developing innovative strategies and analytical tools to identify cows affected by paratuberculosis, that is, infected by the mycobacterium avium ssp paratuberculosis – AAFC A‑Base

Neonatal nutritional interventions using bovine colostrum and/or vitamin D and copper (Cu) and their programming effects on the oxidative status, the maturing of the immune system and the development of intestinal microbial populations among piglets – Growing Forward II (AAFC), Swine cluster II

Understanding intestinal microbiota and immune responses of the host to probiotics and colostrum to improve the intestinal health of pigs – AAFC A‑Base

Developing food technologies and strategies to improve intestinal health and limit the use of antibiotics in monogastric animal production – Growing Forward III (AAFC), Swine cluster II

Molecular and biochemical characterization of the osteopontin bioactive molecule that is secreted in cow’s milk: Functional activities of genetic variants and isoforms – AAFC A‑Base

Professional activities / interests

  • Member: GRESABO (research group on bovine health)
  • Member: International Association for Paratuberculosis
  • Member: Op+lait, research group on milk quality; FQRNT strategic group program
  • Member: Dairy Cattle Breeding and Genetics Committee, Canada
  • Member: Institutional Animal Care Committee
  • Editorial board member: the journal Gene
  • Member: Canadian Society of Animal Science
  • Member: American Dairy Science Association

         Interests: nutritional intervention, epigenetics, immunotolerance, immunization

Education and awards


Post-doc Agriculture et Agriculture Canada (1999-2000)

PhD/MSc. Radiobiologie/Oncologie (Université de Sherbrooke) 1998

Bacc Biotechnologie (Université de Sherbrooke) 1994


Recognition awards:

(1) Distinction: Merit list of the dean of the faculty of medicine, Université de Sherbrooke, 1997–1998; (2) Gordon Fisher award (1997), faculty of medicine, Université de Sherbrooke, for research excellence; (3) Jean-Pierre Caillé award (1997) given by the Université de Sherbrooke medical research council, awarded during Science Day; (4) Distinction: Merit list  of the dean of the faculty of medicine, Université de Sherbrooke, 1991–1992, scholarship; (5) FCAR (funds for researcher training and research assistance), 1991–1992; (6) Scholarship for the Master of Science, Université de Sherbrooke, 1990–1991; (7) Scholarship for the health sciences research program 1989–1990, granted by the faculty of medicine, Université de Sherbrooke; (8) Scholarship awarded by the Université de Sherbrooke medical research centre (CRMUS), summer 1989; (9) Distinction awarded during the symposium in Ottawa, Canada, organized by the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Canada (PMAC), November 1989; (10) Award from the PMAC foundation, Scholarship for the Bachelor of Science, 1989.

International experience and/or work

Epidemiologic typing of strains of the mycobacterium avium ssp paratuberculosis (MAP) in collaboration with the animal mycobacterial infections team at INRA, France (, to document the genetic diversity of MAP infections in North America.  

Guest researcher (1994–1995), Université Pasteur (France), at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Key publications

2019 Ariel, O., D. Gendron, P.-L. Dudemaine, N. Gévry, A. E. Ibeagha, and N. Bissonnette*. Transcriptome Profiling of Bovine Macrophages Infected by Mycobacterium avium spp. paratuberculosis Depicts Foam Cell and Innate Immune Tolerance Phenotypes. Front in Immunology, 10: 2874.

2018 Ibeagha-Awemu*, E.M., R. Li, P.-L. Dudemaine, D.N. Do, and N. Bissonnette. Transcriptome analysis of long non-coding RNA in the bovine mammary gland following dietary supplementation with linseed and safflower oil. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 19(11).

2018 Fomenky, B.E., G.Talbot, J. Chiquette, N. Bissonnette, Y. P. Chouinard, M. Lessard and E. M. Ibeagha-Awemu*. Direct-fed microbial supplementation influences the bacteria community composition of the gastrointestinal tract of pre- and post-weaned calves. Scientific Reports 8(1): 14147.

2018 Ibeagha-Awemu, E.M., D.N. Do, P.L. Dudemaine, B.E. Fomenky, and N. Bissonnette. Integration of lncRNA and mRNA Transcriptome Analyses Reveals Genes and Pathways Potentially Involved in Calf Intestinal Growth and Development during the Early Weeks of Life. Gene 9(3).

2018 Ammah, A.A., D.N. Do, N. Bissonnette, N. Gevry, E.M. Ibeagha-Awemu*.  Co-Expression Network Analysis Identifies miRNA(-)mRNA Networks Potentially Regulating Milk Traits and Blood Metabolites. Int J Mol Sci 19(9).

2018 Lessard, M., M. Blais, N. Bissonnette, K. Lauzon, F. Guay. Piglet weight gain during the first two weeks of lactation influence the immune system development. Vet Immunol. Immunopathol. 209: 25-34.

2017 Brouard, J. S., B. Boyle, E. M. Ibeagha-Awemu, and N. Bissonnette*. Low-depth genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) in a bovine population: strategies to maximize the selection of high quality genotypes and the accuracy of imputation. BMC Genet 18(1):32.

2017 Do, D. N., N. Bissonnette, P. Lacasse, F. Miglior, M. Sargolzaei, X. Zhao, and E. M. Ibeagha-Awemu*. Genome-wide association analysis and pathways enrichment for lactation persistency in Canadian Holstein cattle. J Dairy Sci 100(3):1955-1970.

2017 Duplessis, M., H. Lapierre, B. Ouattara, N. Bissonnette, D. Pellerin, J. P. Laforest, and C. L. Girard*. Whole-body propionate and glucose metabolism of multiparous dairy cows receiving folic acid and vitamin B12 supplements. J Dairy Sci.

2017 Fock-Chow-Tho, D., E. Topp, E. A. Ibeagha-Awemu, and N. Bissonnette*. Comparison of commercial DNA extraction kits and quantitative PCR systems for better sensitivity in detecting the causative agent of paratuberculosis in dairy cow fecal samples. J Dairy Sci 100(1):572-581.

2017 Fomenky, B. E., J. Chiquette, N. Bissonnette, G. Talbot, P. Y. Chouinard, and E. M. Ibeagha-Awemu*. Impact of Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-1079 and Lactobacillus acidophilus BT1386 on total lactobacilli population in the gastrointestinal tract and colon histomorphology of Holstein dairy calves. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. 234():151-161

2016 Bissonnette, N.* and 8 others. Effect of a post-weaning diet supplemented with functional feed additives on ileal transcriptome activity and serum cytokines in piglets challenged with lipopolysaccharide. Vet Immunol Immunopathol 182: 136-149.

2016 Ouattara, B., N. Bissonnette, M. Duplessis, and C.L. Girard. Supplements of vitamins B9 and B12 affect hepatic and mammary gland gene expression profiles in lactating dairy cows. BMC Genomics 17(1): 640-659.

2016 Matte and 8 coll. Sources and routes of administration of copper and vitamins A and D on metabolic status of these micronutrients in suckling piglets. J. Anim. Sci. 94(2): 116-116

2016 Arango Sabogal, J.C., G. Côté, J. Paré, O. Labrecque, J.-P. Roy, S. Buczinski, E. Doré, J.H. Fairbrother, N. Bissonnette, V. Wellemans, et G. Fecteau. Detection of Mycobacterium avium ssp. paratuberculosi​s in tie-stall dairy herds using a standardized environmental sampling technique and targeted pooled samples. Can J Vet Res. 80(3):179-182.

2016 Ibeagha-Awemu, E.M., R. Li, A.A., Ammah, P.-L. Dudemaine, N. Bissonnette, C, Benchaar et X. Zhao. Transcriptome​ adaptation of the bovine mammary gland to diets rich in unsaturated fatty acids shows greater impact of linseed oil over safflower oil on gene expression and metabolic pathways, BMC Genomics​, 17(104), p. 1-23.

2015 Li, R., Beaudoin, F., Ammah, A.A., N. Bissonnette, C. Benchaar, X. Zhao, C. Lei et E.M. Ibeagha-Awemu. Deep sequencing shows microRNA involvement in bovine mammary gland adaptation to diets supplemented with linseed oil or safflower oil. BMC Genomics​, 16(1: Article 884), p. 1-16. doi : 10.1186/s1286​4-015-1965-7.

2014 Dudemaine, P.L., G. Fecteau, M. Lessard, O. Labrecque, J.-S. Roy, and N. Bissonnette*. Increased blood-circulating interferon-gamma, interleukin-17, and osteopontin levels in bovine paratuberculosis.  J. Dairy Sci. 97: 3382-93.

2014 Dudemaine, P.-L., C. Thibault, K. Alain, and N .Bissonnette. "Genetic variations in the SPP1 promoter affect gene expression and the level of osteopontin secretion into bovine milk.", Animal Genetics. 45:629-640.

2012  Bissonnette, N.*, P.L. Dudemaine, C. Thibault, and G. Robitaille. Proteomic analysis and immunodetection of the bovine milk osteopontin isoforms. J. Dairy Sci. 95(2):567–579.

2011  Cressier, B., and N. Bissonnette*. Assessment of an extraction protocol to detect the major mastitis-causing pathogens in bovine milk. J. Dairy Sci. 94:2171.

2011  Palin, M.F.*, D. Beaudry, M. Vallée, N. Bissonnette, B.D. Murphy, and H.V. Petit. Development of a two-species cDNA microarray for transcriptional profiling of sow reproductive traits. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 91(3):476–477.

2010  Daudelin, J.F., M. Lessard*, F. Beaudoin, E. Nadeau, N. Bissonnette, Y. Boutin, J.F. Brousseau, K. Lauzon, and J.M. Fairbrother. Administration of Pediococcus acidilactici and Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii influences enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli F4 attachment and expression of intestinal cytokines in weaned pigs. J. Vet. Res. 42:69.

2009  Alain, K., N.A. Karrow, C. Thibault, J. St-Pierre, M. Lessard, and N. Bissonnette*. Osteopontin: An early innate immune marker harbouring genetic polymorphisms with possible links with resistance to mastitis. BMC Genomics 10:444.

2009  Bissonnette, N.*, J.-P. Lévesque-Sergerie, and G. Boissonneault. Spermatozoal transcriptome profile as marker for bull fertility and sperm motility: A potential tool to evaluate semen quality. Reproduction 138(1):65–80.

2008  Lalancette, C., C. Thibault, N. Caron, and N. Bissonnette*. Transcriptome analysis of bull semen with extreme non-return rate: Use of suppression-subtractive hybridization to identify functional markers for fertility. Biol. Reprod. 78(4):618–635.

2007  Lévesque-Sergerie, J.-P., M. Duquette, C. Thibault, L. Delbecchi, and N. Bissonnette*. Detection limits of several commercial reverse transcriptase enzymes: Impact on the low- and high-abundance transcript levels assessed by quantitative RT-PCR. BMC Mol. Biol. 8:93–103.

2007  Gilbert, I., N. Bissonnette, G. Boissonneault, M. Vallée, and C. Robert*. A molecular analysis of the population of mRNA in bovine spermatozoa. Reproduction 133(6):1073–1086.

2007  Benkel, B.F.*, E. Valle, N. Bissonnette, and A.H. Farid. Simultaneous detection of eight single nucleotide polymorphisms in the ovine prion protein gene. Mol. Cell. Probes 21(5–6):363–367.

2006  Bissonnette, N.*, I. Gilbert, J.-P. Levesque-Sergerie, P. Lacasse, and D. Petitclerc (2006). In vivo expression of the antimicrobial defensin and lactoferrin proteins allowed by the strategic insertion of introns adequately spliced. Gene 372:142–152.