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 - Basic Medicine (Core Departments) - Anatomical Science
Anatomy and Cell Biology
The human body consists of 6 trillion cells with at least 210 distinct types. Each of these cells has its own unique character, and it is essential for human life for these cells to develop, maintain themselves, and function appropriately. An essential information code that defines a cell’s unique character is the epigenome, which refers to the whole-genome assembly of epigenetic modifications of chromatin, including DNA methylation and a variety of histone modifications. The states of the epigenome play a critical function in determining the growth, differentiation, responses to external stimuli, aging, and diseased conditions of the cells in our body. By using all the available methodologies in life science as well as by developing new ones, we are aiming to understand the basis of epigenetic regulations and to appropriately control the growth, differentiation, and function of the cells in vitro.

  Mitinori Saitou, M.D., Ph.D.
Research and Education
All of the diverse cell types in the body can be broadly classed as either somatic or germline cells. In contrast to somatic cells, which work to maintain the constant, stable form and function of an individual organism’s body, germ cells provide the faithfully replicated information needed to establish subsequent generations of individuals. In order to fulfill this role, these cells need to exhibit certain unique properties, including the ability to undergo epigenetic reprogramming, to divide meiotically, and to revert (generally through fusion with another germline cell) to a state of developmental totipotency and maintain that totipotent state until the start of ontogeny.
Our long-term goal is to understand the basis of epigenetic regulations and to appropriately control the growth, differentiation, and function of the cells in vitro. As a critical step toward this goal, we have been investigating signaling, global transcription and epigenetic dynamics associated with germ cell specification, proliferation and development. We have proposed a concept that germ cell specification involves an integration of three key events: repression of the somatic program, re-acquisition of potential pluripotency, and an ensuing genome-wide epigenetic reprogramming. Recently, using pluripotent stem cells (embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells), we have succeeded in precisely reconstituting the mouse germ-cell specification pathway in culture. This work will serve as a foundation for the better elucidation of early germ-cell biology, including the mechanism of genome-wide epigenetic reprogramming, as well as for the reconstitution of the entire germ-cell development process in vitro, not only in mice but also in other mammals, including humans.

Anatomy and Cell Biology
Professor Mitinori Saitou

Katsuhiko Hayashi

Kazuki Kurimoto, Hiroshi Ohta
TEL +81-75-753-4335
FAX +81-75-751-7286
Induction of PGCLCs through EpiLCs from ESCs/iPSCs.
ESCs: embryonic stem cells; iPSCs: induced pluripotent stem cells; EpiLCs: epiblast-like cells; PGCLCs: primordial germ cell-like cells; ICSI: intracytoplasmic sperm injection; PC: principle component.
Recent Publications
1. Saitou, M., Kagiwada, S., and Kurimoto, K. (2012). Epigenetic reprogramming in mouse pre-implantation development and primordial germ cells. Development, 139,
2. Hayashi, K., Ohta, H., Kurimoto, K., Aramaki, S., and Saitou, M. (2011). Reconstitution of the mouse germ cell specification pathway in culture by pluripotent stem cells. Cell, 146, 519-532.
3. Hirota, T., Ohta, H., Shigeta, M., Niwa, H., and Saitou, M. (2011). Drug-inducible gene recombination by the Dppa3-MER Cre MER transgene in the developmental cycle of the germ cell lineage in mice, Biology of Reproduction, 85, 367-377.
4. Yabuta, Y., Ohta, H., Abe, T., Kurimoro, K., Chuma, S., and Saitou, M. (2011). TDRD5 is required for retrotransposon silencing, chromatoid body assembly and spermiogenesis in mice. The Journal of Cell Biology, 192, 781-795.
5. Yamaji, M., Tanaka, T., Shigeta, M., Chuma, S., Saga, Y., and Saitou, M. (2010). Functional reconstruction of Nanos3 expression in the germ cell lineage by a novel transgenic reporter reveals distinct subcellular localizations of Nanos3. Reproduction, 139, 381-393.