Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Study of molecular signaling networks that regulate organ development, maintenance, and disruption
  • Development of epithelial tissue and analysis of tissue-specific stem cells
  • Molecular signaling networks in carcinogenesis
  • Drugs that target novel cancer-related proteins
Professor Akira Kikuchi
Molecular and Pathological Biochemistry
Homeostasis depends on both intracellular and extracellular signaling networks. We are interested in how these networks regulate structure and function of multiple levels of the body, including cells, tissues, and organs. In addition, we are examining how abnormalities in these networks lead to diseases and new treatments to cure the diseases.

The study of structure and function from the molecular level to the tissue and organ level and how irregularities lead to diseases

Homeostasis of the body depends on a large number of diverse molecular signaling networks. Our laboratory is focusing on networks involving the interaction between proteins, lipids, and glycans, as these transmit information across the intracellular and extracellular environments to regulate fundamental physiological functions such as cell proliferation, differentiation, motility and polarity. Among various signaling pathways, we are analyzing Wnt signaling primarily because Wnt signaling is essential for development and its abnormalities cause various diseases. We also investigate how other signaling pathways, such as TGFβ, EGF, HGF, and FGF, coordinate with Wnt to regulate higher-level development such as tissue and organ formation and function. In addition, we are attempting to identify new markers for tissue-specific stem cells. For this purpose, we have developed organ culture methods and knockout mice that allow for analysis from the molecular level to the whole body level.

Figure1 Identification of novel signal network that regulates stem cells and tissue morphogenesis.

We are also trying to clarify how abnormalities in epithelial tissues are related to various diseases such as cancer, inflammation, and metabolic disorders. For example, we have found that several molecules that regulate the epithelial morphogenesis and functions are related to the pathology of cancer. We aim to clarify the roles of these molecules in carcinogenesis and metastasis and develop new medicines such as antibody drugs and nucleic acid medicine.

Figure2 Elucidation of molecular mechanism by which aberrant signaling of morphogenesis causes tumorigenesis and development of new anti-cancer drugs.

Thus, by making the study for the understanding of basis of life science, we aim to broaden our understanding of diseases and discovery of new treatments.