Toru Nakamura

    Email Address:
    College: Medicine Department: Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
    Title: Professor
    Office: 2202 MBRB M/C 669 Phone: 9961988
    Participating in the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Research Awards program: Yes

    Research Interest:
    Our laboratory is interested in understanding how checkpoint and DNA repair proteins contribute to maintenance of telomeres, the natural ends of linear eukaryotic chromosomes. Proper maintenance of telomeres is crucial for stable inheritance of the genome. Various checkpoint and DNA repair proteins, including evolutionarily highly conserved checkpoint kinases Tel1 (ATM) and Rad3 (ATR), play important roles in stable maintenance of telomeres. However, no clear mechanistic roles for various checkpoint and DNA repair proteins in telomere maintenance have been established. Deregulation of telomere maintenance mechanisms has been found to be a key event in tumorigenesis, thus mechanistic insights on how various proteins collaborate to generate functional telomeres might lead to effective methods for preventing cancer. We use fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe as a model system. Advantages of S. pombe include well-characterized DNA damage responses with high structural and functional conservation to mammalian cells, and amenability to genetic, biochemical and cytological studies. In addition, the ability of fission yeast to bypass the need for functional telomere maintenance mechanism by circularizing all chromosomes provides flexibility, not available in any other organisms, in manipulating telomere related genes without being hindered by cell lethality. In fact, S. pombe cells lacking telomerase, as well as cells lacking both Tel1 and Rad3 kinases survive telomere maintenance defects by circularizing all three chromosomes.

    Minimum time commitment in hours per week: 15

    Qualifications of a Student:
    Student should be majoring in area related to biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology.

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