Sarah Kimmins

Associate Professor - Reproductive Biology

Canada Research Chair Tier II, Epigenetics, Reproduction and Development

Centre for Research in Reproduction and Development (CRRD)

T: 514-398-7658  |  sarah.kimmins [at] (Email) | Macdonald-Stewart Building, MS1-091


BSc (Dalhousie)
MSc (Dalhousie)
PhD (Dalhousie)

Short Bio

Dr. Kimmins received her Ph.D. from Dalhousie University in 2003 and completed her post-doctoral training at the Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moleculaire et Cellulaire in Strasbourg, France.  She was appointed to the Department of Animal Science in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in September of 2005 and is a tenured Associate Professor. She is an associate member of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine at McGill. She holds a Tier II Canada Research Chair in Epigenetics, Reproduction and Development and is the Associate Director for the McGill Center for the Study of Reproduction (2014-2017). Her independent and collaborative research programs have received peer reviewed funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Genome Quebec, Fonds québéc de la recherché sur la nature et les technologies (FQRNT) and the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).  She has published in international general interest and field specific journals including: Science, Nature Communications, Nature Methods, FASEB and Biology of Reproduction. She is a frequent invited speaker with over 50 presentations including international meetings such as the American Society for Andrology, Keystone Symposia, the Society for the Study of Reproduction and Gordon Research Conference series.

Awards and Recognitions

2016 The Society for the Study of Reproduction Young Investigator Award
2014 Young Andrologist Award from the American Society of Andrology

Leadership and Service

Dr. Kimmins is a frequent invited speaker with over 80 presentations including international meetings such as the, American Society for Andrology, Keystone Symposia, the Society for the Study of Reproduction and at Gordon Research Conference series. She has served as a grant peer reviewer for CIHR, the National Institutes of Health (USA) and the Medical Research Council (United Kingdom) and is extensively involved in several international societies at the council and committee levels. She is an Associate editor for Biology of Reproduction and Environmental Health Perspectives. She was an elected council member for the Society for the Study of Reproduction (2016-2019) and is the Chair of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, Andrology Special Interest Group (2019-2021).

Active Affiliations

  • Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society
  • Society for the Study of Reproduction
  • American Society of Andrology
  • McGill Center for Research in Reproduction and Development
  • Canadian DoHaD Society
  • International DOHaD Society

Research Interests

My research focuses on fertility in men and how the father’s environment (diet, BMI & toxicants) impacts the sperm, clinical outcomes, development of embryos and offspring health. At the crux of this research is the sperm epigenome, a heritable layer of biochemical information that takes the form of methylation of DNA and the post-translational modification of chromatin associated proteins, the histones. The epigenome has been implicated in complex diseases such as infertility, cancer, diabetes, schizophrenia and autism. There is enormous potential in disease prevention and treatment via increased understanding of the establishment of the epigenome. We are interested in how environmental exposures to the father interacts with the developing sperm epigenome, and how this molecular information is transmitted to the embryo. We explore these research questions using transgenic mouse models to establish critical molecular underpinnings, which are then translated and studied in humans. Long-term goals are to develop fertility screening tools, and intervention strategies to improve child and adult health. We are currently developing e-health materials aimed at increasing men’s knowledge across the lifespan regarding lifestyle and fertility.

Key Words: epigenetics/epigenome, transcriptomics, epigenetic-inheritance, nutrients, toxicants, pharmacology, physiology, infertility, parental disease transmission, development, transgenics, epigenetic-environment interactions

Current Funded Research

  • CIHR Operating grant, Obesity and nutritional programming of the paternal sperm epigenome: effects on offspring, development and health. Operating grant, March 2015. Principal Applicant Kimmins and 5 co-applicants (Weiler, Lambrot, Xia, Dodds, Fishman, Librach, Moskovtsev). $1,077,100 (July 2015-2020).
  • CIHR Team Grant, Developmental Origins of Health and Disease - Implications for Men, Women, Boys and Girls. Generational and sex-specific effects of paternal environmental exposures on offspring development and health. $1,500,000. Principal Applicant Kimmins, 18 co-applicants. (July 2016-2021)

  • CIHR HELTI TRajectories Of healthy life using Public Health and primary care Interventions in Canada. PI Cindy-Lee Dennis, Kimmins (role co-applicant). Funded $17M, 2017-2024

  • NIH National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, VICTER -Determining how pre-conception exposure to phthalates impacts sperm function, the epigenome, fertility and reproductive outcomes. in mice and men. Funded -8/1/2019-7/31/2022 total budget $1,730,196 USD PI Richard Pilsner, Co-applicants Visconti and Kimmins

  • Canadian, Epigenetic and Environment Health Research Consortium Network (CEEHRC) Network, $1,080,800 funded 2019-2022, Principle Applicant Martin Hirst, Kimmins Co-Applicant.

  • CIHR Operating grant, Novel functional outcomes of vitamin D in infancy; can correction of low vitamin D status program for a leaner body composition phenotype? Operating grant, March 2015. H. Weiler (PA), Kimmins, Rauch Jones and Wei, $1, 015,518 total award, July 2015-2021.

  • NIH R01 Title Drying Storing and Reanimating Egg Germinal Vesicles to Preserve Fertility. PI Pierre Comizzoli (Smithsonian Institute), Co-investigators, Wildt, Elliot and Kimmins. $1,399, 135, 2017-2021.

  • Reseau Quebecois en Reproduction, Fonds de recherche nature et technologies, Programme Regroupements Strategiques, 2017-2023, PI Derek Boerboom, U Montreal. Co-applicant Kimmins. Amount $3,492,010

  • CIHR Team Grant: Boys’ and Men’s Health (Advancing Research to Improve Boys’ and Men’s Health) Initiative. "Father's lasting influence: Molecular foundations of transgenerational transmission of the paternal environment" Oct. 2014-2019 $ 1, 500,000 (total). Principal Applicant J. Bailey, co-applicant Kimmins

  • Canada Research Chair Tier II, Epigenetics, Reproduction and Development, 2016-2021 (renewed), $500,000 (salary award).

In the News and Media

Associated Press interview and subsequent news features on cannabis and fertility:

Research team mention in the New York Times

Opinion editorial Globe and Mail

Interview with Dr. Kimmins on paternal diets and reproductive outcomes. 

Article in Science: Siklenka  K, ErkekS, Godmann M, LambrotR, McGraw S. LafleurC*, CohenT,* Xia J. SudermannM, Hallett M, Trasler J,  PetersA, and Kimmins S.Disruption of histone methylation in developing sperm impairs offspring health transgenerationally. Science (Oct 8, 2015 Science). View  Abstract  |  Reprint

Article in Nature Communications: Low paternal dietary folate alters the mouse sperm epigenome and is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes. Read online or download PDF

Read related article: Does dad's diet determine a baby's genetic fate?

Read about Dr Kimmin's groundbreaking work in epigenetics (pdf) appearing in International Innovation, published by Research Media, the leading global dissemination resource for the wider scientific, technology and research communities, dedicated to disseminating the latest science, research and technological innovations on a global level. More information and a complimentary subscription offer to the publication can be found at:

Research networks

  • Réseau Québécois en Reproduction
    • L’épigénétique est utilisée pour décrire l’information biochimique héréditaire au sein de l’ADN et des proteines qui entourent et régulent la condensation de l’ADN. L’information épigénétique régule l’expression génique et peut être influencée par l’environment. Nos modeles animaux nous ont permis de determiner que l’alimentation joue un role capital dans le programme epigenetique et la fertilite. Nos études des profils épigénétiques altérés dans des biopsies prélevées sur des patients atteints de cancer testiculaire ont mis en lumière la possibilité qu’une perturbation du programme épigénétique soit associée avec la survenue cancer. De facon interessante, nos travaux les plus recents montrent que les profils epigenetiques regulent egalement la pluripotentialite et la proliferation dans les cancers testiculaires et chez les cellules souches. Il est particulièrement important de mieux comprendre la contribution de l’épigénétique à la santé reproductive chez l’homme, puisque les modèles épigénétiques peuvent être perturbés par l’environnement et que les erreurs dans le code épigénétique peuvent avoir un impact à long terme sur la santé des hommes et de leur descendance.
  • Quebec Network on Reproduction


ANSC 323 Mammalian Physiology 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

ANSC 324 Devel. Biology & Reproduction 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

LSCI 451 Research Project 1 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Select publications

Ravitsky V, & Kimmins S. The Forgotten men:rising rates of infertility urgently require new approaches for its prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Biology of Reproduction in press IOZ161

Chan D, Shao X, Dumargne MC*, Aarabi M, Simon MM, Kwan T, Bailey J, Robaire B, Kimmins S, Gabriel MS, Zini A, Librach C, Moskovtsev S, Grundberg E, Bourque G, Pastinen T, Trasler JM. Discovery and capture of novel dynamic DNA methylation in human sperm with preferential links to altered folate metabolism. Environmental Health Perspectives , 2019 Aug; 127

Lambrot RL*, Siklenka K*, Lafleur C*, Kimmins S. Epigenetic programming established in spermatogonia is maintained through spermatogenesis. Biology of Reproduction 2019 June 1; 1661-1672

Bornman MS, Aneck-Hahn, De Jager C, Wagenaar GM, Bouman H, Barnhoorn, Patrick SM, Kortenkamp A, Vandenberg LN, Blumberg B, Kimmins S, Jegou B, Auger, J, DeiGangi J, Heindel JJ. Endocrine disruptors and Health effects in South Africa: A Call for Action. Environmental Health Perspectives 2017, Aug 22;125.

Siklenka  K*, Erkek S, Godmann M*, Lambrot R*, McGraw S. Lafleur C*, Cohen T,* Xia J. Sudermann M, Hallett M, Trasler J,  Peters A, and Kimmins S. Disruption of histone methylation in developing sperm has dire consequences for embryo development and effects are inherited transgenerationally. Science. 2015 Nov 6;350(6261). {Scored by Altmetric in the top 5% of research outputs of the same age}

Article highlighted in: Waldron W. Fatherly histones influences, Nature Reviews Genetics, 16; 685 (2015); McCarrey J. The epigenome- a family Affair, Science, November 6; 634-635 (2015)

Lambrot. R*, Lafleur C*, and Kimmins S. The histone demethylase KDMA1A is essential forthe maintenance and differentiation of spermatogonial stem cells and progenitors. FASEB J. 2015 Nov;29(11):4402-16.

Lambrot R*, Xu. C*, Saint-Phar S*, Chountalos G*, Suderman M. Hallett M., Kimmins S. Low paternal dietary folate alters the mouse sperm epigenome and is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes. December 10, 2013 Nature Communications {ranked in the 99th percentile of tracked articles of a similar age}

Lambrot R*. Kimmins S. Histone methylation is a critical regulator of abnormal gene expression in testis cancer. Int J Androl. 2011;34(2):110-23

Kimmins S, Sassone-Corsi P.  Chromatin Remodelling and Epigenetic Features of Germ Cells. Nature.  434, 583-589 (2005)

Kotoja N¹, Kimmins S1 Brancorsini S, Hentsch D, Vonesch JL, Davidson I, Parvinen M, Sassone-Corsi P. Preparation, isolation, and characterization of stage-specific spermatogenic cells for cellular and molecular analysis.  Nature Methods 1, 249 – 254 (2004). ¹co-first author


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