Eric Vilain

Eric Vilain


Laboratory Address:
Gonda 6335
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Office Address:
200 UCLA Medical Plaza
Suite 265
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Work Address:
BOX 957088, 6357A Gonda Cntr
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Fax Number:

Office Phone Number:

Work Phone Number:
(310) 206-6581




Chair, Medical Genetics Clinic
Director, Center for Gender-Based Biology
Member, Brain Research Institute, CTSI, Cell & Developmental Biology GPB Home Area, Neuroscience GPB Home Area

Research Interests

Sex determination orients development toward sexually dimorphic individuals, male or female. In mammals, male sex determination is triggered by a primary signal, encoded by the testis determining factor SRY, localized on the Y chromosome. Subsequently, a complex network of genes, most of them still unknown, is regulated and leads to male sexual differentiation. I have discovered new molecular and cellular mechanisms of sex determination during fetal development. In particular, I have provided strong evidence supporting SRY as the testis determining gene, and identified regulatory mechanisms of transcription of DAX1, another sex determining gene. A new concept is now emerging: normal sexual development may result from the functional and developmental integration of a number of different genes that play roles at all levels of sex determination, sexual differentiation and possibly in sexual behavior. My laboratory is exploring the genetics of development of the reproductive axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-gonads). Two complementary approaches are used: the analysis of patients with disorders of sexual development and the study of animal and cellular models. Specifically, we are searching for mutations in genes that are candidates for a role in developmental pathologies of the reproductive axis. We are also in the process of identifying differentially expressed genes at various times during embryonic development of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and gonads in the rat. In addition, we are searching for genes involved in the chemotactic system responsible for the migration of hypothalamic cells towards the pituitary. Finally, we are testing the hypothesis that there may be genetic influences on behavioral differences between males and females, in addition to the direct influence of sex steroids.


Eric Vilain, M.D., Ph.D. was born in Paris, France and is currently an Associate Professor in the Departments of Human Genetics, Pediatrics and Urology at UCLA. Dr. Vilain received his B.S. in Biochemistry at the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in 1987 and then his Ph.D. in 1994 at the Pasteur Institute. In 1995, Dr. Vilain received his M.D. at the Faculte de Medecine Necker Enfants Malades. Dr. Vilain assumes the positions of Chief of the Division of Medical Genetics at UCLA, Director of Female Sexual Medicine in the Department of Urology and Graduate Advisor in the Department of Human Genetics. When he was a medical student, his first assignment was a pediatric service taking care of intersexed infants. He was shocked to see how poor the understanding of this condition was, and how many life-altering decisions were made on behalf of the babies. Dr. Vilain has devoted his academic career to the biology of intersexuality. He serves on several national committees on intersexuality. He has received numerous awards, notably from the NIH and the March of Dimes. Dr. Vilain is an expert in the field of the genetics of sexual development. He has deciphered a large number of molecular mechanisms responsible for intersexuality in humans, such as mutations in the sex-determining genes SRY and SOX9. His laboratory is working on the mechanisms of early gonadal development and brain sexual differentiation.


A selected list of publications: