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Division of Signal Functions

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Molecular Pharmacology

Research Member

Professor : Naoaki Saito
Associate Professor : Takehiko Ueyama
Assistant Professor : Naoko Adachi

Research Contents

Research in the Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology is focused on the mechanisms and functions of cellular signal transduction in neuronal and other cell types.

  1. Dysfunction of signal transduction in neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson's disease and spinocerebellar ataxia.
  2. Signal transductions in development/maintenance of hearing, development of superoxide-related diseases, and repairment after CNS injury.
  3. The roles in G protein-coupled receptor signaling of post-translational modifications of receptors and other signaling elements, including S-palmitoylation, S-nitrosylation and phosphorylation.

Cell Signaling

Research Member

Professor : Ushio Kikkawa
Associate Professor : Akio Nakashima

Research Contents

Research in the Laboratory of Cell Signaling is studying the regulation of cellular responses as follows by focusing the phosphorylation of the cellular proteins to clarify a novel signaling mechanism in health and disease. Practically, human cell lines and yeast (Schizosaccharomyces pombe) are employed to elucidate the regulatory system that is common among the eukaryotes.

  1. Regulation of cell functions via protein kinases such as PKC and PKB.
  2. Signaling mechanisms by TOR protein kinase to control protein synthesis and cell proliferation.
  3. Molecular mechanisms of sensing the nutritional signals.

Membrane Biology

Research Member

Professor : Toshiki Itoh
Associate Professor : Hideyuki Mukai
Lecturer : Kazuya Tsujita

Research Contents

Subject 1 "Mechanism of cell motility by phospholipid signaling"

Phospholipids are important biological molecules involved in signal transduction at the plasma membrane, whose metabolic dysfunction can lead to a number of diseases. Among them, the generation of cancer cells characterized by uncontrolled proliferation, invasion, and metastasis are brought about by abnormal signal transduction through cell membranes, and dynamic changes in membrane morphology. Our laboratory studies the molecular mechanisms of cell motility and membrane traffic mediated by phospholipids that make up the cell membrane. We have clarified the mechanisms that control the directionality of cell movement driven by actin polymerization beneath the plasma membrane. In recent years, we particularly focus on a previously unrecognized parameter, membrane curvature, in order to understand the pathogenesis of severe disease caused by abnormalities in phospholipid signaling. Further, we aim to expand our research to drug discovery based on the regulatory mechanism of membrane morphogenesis.

Subject 2 "Functional analysis of protein kinases"

By focusing on the biological processes that involve protein phosphorylation and dephosphorylation, we have been studying the mechanism of intracellular signal transduction. Since our discovery of protein kinase N (PKN) family, we explore the possibility of the drug discovery target through studies on their structure and function. In particular, genetically modified mouse models are our main tools for the functional analysis of protein kinase C (PKC) and PKN at the physiological level. Our research reveals roles of protein kinases in cell motility, cell death, and stress response.