Gisèle LaPointe

Professor Gisèle LaPointe
Professor, NSERC/Dairy Farmers of Ontario Industrial Research Chair in Dairy Microbiology
Phone number: 
519 824 4120 extension 52099
Food Science Department - CRIFS Building

The goal of our laboratory is to improve the quality and functionality of food, with a special focus on dairy products such as yogurt, milk powders and cheese. We investigate the microbial communities of these foods using molecular approaches spanning genes, proteins and metabolites. We seek to understand how food and probiotics can influence the composition and activity of the gut microbiota leading to potential health benefits. Along the way, we hope to improve sustainability by finding new ways to use processing byproducts as functional food ingredients. Our team’s research is divided into three broad themes:

Theme 1: Milk and dairy product quality and food safety
• Studies on milk quality at the farm and processing levels in Ontario.
• Investigating and tracking the spoilage-causing thermoduric bacteria and spores of milk powder and cheese in Ontario.
• Characterization of microbial communities of cheese through culture and culture-independent methods to improve production.
• Application of biochemical and microbial aspects of ripening/flavor development on cheese quality prediction and modification.
• Controlling Listeria and Salmonella in food.
• Use of in vitro gastrointestinal modeling to determine strain variation in Salmonella survival and activity through transcriptomics and metabolomics.

Theme 2: Probiotics, lactic acid bacteria activity & gut microbiota
• Investigating the mechanism of exopolysaccharide biosynthesis by lactic acid bacteria.
• Investigating the cross-feeding interactions between probiotics and butyrate-producing colon bacteria in the presence of dietary fiber.
• Analysis of the influence of food additives on the metabolomics profile of human gut microbiota.
• Effects of whey protein isolate based media on proteolytic and anti-virulence activity of Lactobacillus helveticus (LH-2) and Lactobacillus acidophilus (La-5) probiotic strains.
• Effects of Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris JFR1 on Salmonella virulence gene expression using in vitro cell culture models.

Theme 3: Ingredient functionality in dairy products
• Utilizing apple pomace to enhance the fruit and fibre content as well as the stability of dairy products.
• Effects of dried apple peel powder on the functional and sensory properties of drinking yogurt.
• Production of bioactive ingredients through fermentation of whey.

Professor, NSERC/Dairy Farmers of Ontario Industrial Research Chair in Dairy Microbiology

Faculty Advisor for Food Science BSc Co-Op program

Gisèle has been awarded the Dairy Farmers of Ontario Professorship in Dairy Microbiology, joining the Department of Food Science in January 2015. She has teaching and research experience in biotechnology, food microbiology and food applications of microbial molecular genetics, genomics and proteomics, using systems approaches for studying microbial ecology. Gisèle is also the department’s faculty advisor for the Coop program.

Academic History

B.Sc. in Biology, University of Prince Edward Island (1979)

M.Sc. in Ecology, Université Laval (1983)

Ph.D. in Microbiology, Université Laval (1992)

Affiliations and Partnerships

  • Associate Editor of the International Journal of Food Microbiology
  • Editorial Board for Applied and Environmental Microbiology
  • Past President of the Quebec Association for Food Protection
  • Member of IAFP, ASM, CSM, CIFST and CSN

Awards and Honours

NSERC/Dairy Farmers of Ontario Industrial Research Chair in Dairy Microbiology

Research Impact

Gisèle’s research aims towards understanding how food components modulate the metabolic activities of microbiota in food and human microbial ecosystems. Her goal is to improve the quality and functionality of food, with a special focus on milk and dairy products.  

Canada’s capacity for innovation in the dairy industry will grow through knowledge translation and training highly qualified personnel. The NSERC/DFO Industrial Research Chair will contribute to the mission of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario: “To provide leadership and excellence in the production and marketing of Canadian milk”. Dairy microbiology can aid this process by concentrating on reinforcing milk quality management practices and providing scientific support for dairy as a delivery vehicle for health benefits to the Canadian consumer. The NSERC/DFO Industrial Research Chair will thus integrate knowledge across the value chain, from producer to consumer health, providing a systems approach to high quality dairy products. 

Current Research

Milk and dairy product quality: Farm management practices have impacts on the types of microbes that are transmitted to milk, which in turn influence processing and the shelf life of the products. Gisèle is developing projects on the stability of silage, which has been identified as a potential source of contaminating microbes in milk. She studies how microbial communities contribute to cheese production and ripening.

Dairy products are adaptable vehicles for delivering functional health components in the human diet, including probiotics, prebiotics and other bioactive compounds such as peptides. Gisèle’s research looks at how digestion affects survival and activity in these complex mixtures, and their impact on the gut microbial community.

Dairy processing leads to co-products that can be fermented in order to produce functional foods containing probiotics and bioactives. Gisèle’s research studies how these ingredients may be able to modulate the gut microbiota or the immune system to promote health and reduce the incidence and severity of chronic or infectious diseases. The results will lead to means for controlling microbial ecosystems in the dairy environment, improving the value of dairy products and stimulating new innovations in using food to influence gut health.

Graduate Student Information

Graduate students interested in working with Gisèle should submit a letter of motivation with their CV by email.

Gisèle sees her role as the coach, encouraging each student according to their particular needs in order to reach their full potential, whether in an undergraduate summer project, Master’s, Ph.D. or a postdoctoral internship.  Publishing their results is an integral part of this process. She fosters critical thinking and initiative within a cooperative work environment. Students take responsibility for their professional development, learning how to manage time and resources, and as they gain experience, they will supervise other students.

Some examples of previous projects are studying the impact of the phosphorylation state of proteins on their function during the biosynthesis of polysaccharides, increasing the bioaccessibility of antioxidants in milk through fermentation with probiotics, and discovering the interactions between starter and ripening bacteria in cheese.

Students supervised by Gisèle have obtained faculty positions, gone on to become director of R&D in industry, or joined provincial or federal government agencies such as MAPAQ, CFIA and Health Canada.

Featured Publications

Zhang, J., Guri, A., Corredig, M., Hassan, A., Griffiths, M., G. LaPointe. 2016. Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris strain attenuates Salmonella adhesion to human intestinal cells in vitro. Food Research International, 90:147–153.

Bondue , P., S. Crèvecoeur, F. Brose, G. Daube, M.-C. Seghaye, M. W. Griffiths, G. LaPointe and V. Delcenserie. 2016. Antivirulence effect against intestinal pathogens of cell-free spent media obtained from Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium crudilactis grown in media supplemented with 3’-siallylactose. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7:1460.

Kang, H.-J., C. Gilbert, F. Badeaux, D. Atlan, G. LaPointe. 2015. A tyrosine phosphorylation switch controls the interaction between the transmembrane modulator protein Wzd and the tyrosine kinase Wze of Lactobacillus rhamnosus. BMC Microbiology, 15:40.

Gagnon, M., P. Savard, A. Rivière, G. LaPointe, D. Roy. 2015. Bioaccessible antioxidants in milk fermented by Bifidobacterium longum subsp. longum strains. BioMed Research International, 2015:1-12.

Goudenège, D., V. Boursicot, T. Versigny, S. Bonnetot, J. Ratiskol, C. Sinquin, G. LaPointe, F. Le Roux, C. Delbarre-Ladrat. 2014. Genome sequence of Vibrio diabolicus and identification of the exopolysaccharide HE800 biosynthesis locus. Applied Microbiology & Biotechnol., 98:10165-10176.

Desfossés-Foucault, E., G. LaPointe, D. Roy. 2014. Transcription profiling of interactions between Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris SK11 and Lactobacillus paracasei ATCC 334 during Cheddar cheese simulation. Int. J. Food Microbiol., 178: 76-86.

Book Chapters

LaPointe, G. 2015. Understanding and preventing spoilage of cow’s milk. In : Achieving sustainable production of cow’s milk.  Nico van Belzen (ed.), Vol 1., Safety and Quality. Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing Limited.

Related Links

Professor Gisele LaPointe