Toru Nakano

Osaka University, Suika, Ōsaka, Japan

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Publications (105)803.34 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Primordial germ cells (PGCs) are undifferentiated germ cells in embryos, the fate of which is to become gametes; however, mouse PGCs can easily be reprogrammed into pluripotent embryonic germ cells (EGCs) in culture in the presence of particular extracellular factors, such as combinations of Steel factor (KITL), LIF and bFGF (FGF2). Early PGCs form EGCs more readily than do later PGCs, and PGCs lose the ability to form EGCs by embryonic day (E) 15.5. Here, we examined the effects of activation of the serine/threonine kinase AKT in PGCs during EGC formation; notably, AKT activation, in combination with LIF and bFGF, enhanced EGC formation and caused ∼60% of E10.5 PGCs to become EGCs. The results indicate that the majority of PGCs at E10.5 could acquire pluripotency with an activated AKT signaling pathway. Importantly, AKT activation did not fully substitute for bFGF and LIF, and AKT activation without both LIF and bFGF did not result in EGC formation. These findings indicate that AKT signal enhances and/or collaborates with signaling pathways of bFGF and of LIF in PGCs for the acquisition of pluripotency.
    Development (Cambridge, England). 10/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: DNA methylation is a key epigenetic regulator in mammals, and the dynamic balance between methylation and demethylation impacts various processes, from development to disease. DNA methylation is erased during replication when DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) fails to methylate the daughter strand, in a process known as passive DNA demethylation. We found that the enforced expression of Stella (also known as PGC7, Dppa3), a maternal factor required for the maintenance of DNA methylation in early embryos, induced global DNA demethylation in NIH3T3 cells. This demethylation was caused by the binding of Stella to Np95 (also known as Uhrf1, ICBP90) and the subsequent inhibition of DNMT1 recruitment. Considering that impaired DNA methylation profiles are associated with various developmental or disease phenomena, Stella may be a powerful tool with which to study the biological effects of global DNA hypomethylation.
    Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 09/2014; · 2.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: HSP90, found in all kingdoms of life, is a major chaperone protein regulating many client proteins. We demonstrated that HSP90α, one of two paralogs duplicated in vertebrates, plays an important role in the biogenesis of fetal PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNA), which act against the transposon activities, in mouse male germ cells. The knockout mutation of Hsp90α resulted in a large reduction in the expression of primary and secondary piRNAs and mislocalization of MIWI2, a PIWI homolog. Whereas the mutation in Fkbp6 encoding a co-chaperone reduced piRNAs of 28-32 nucleotides in length, the Hsp90α mutation reduced piRNAs of 24-32 nucleotides, suggesting the presence of both FKBP6-dependent and -independent actions of HSP90α. Although DNA methylation and mRNA levels of L1 retrotransposon were largely unchanged in the Hsp90α mutant testes, the L1-encoded protein was increased, suggesting the presence of post-transcriptional regulation. This study revealed the specialized function of the HSP90α isofom in the piRNA biogenesis and repression of retrotransposons during the development of male germ cells in mammals.
    Nucleic Acids Research 09/2014; · 8.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Primordial germ cells (PGCs) can give rise to pluripotent stem cells known as embryonic germ cells (EGCs) when cultured with basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), stem cell factor (SCF), and leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF). Somatic cells can give rise to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) by introduction of the reprogramming transcription factors Oct4, Sox2, and Klf4. The effects of Sox2 and Klf4 on somatic cell reprogramming can be reproduced using the small molecule compounds, transforming growth factor-β receptor (TGFβR) inhibitor and Kempaullone, respectively. Here we examined the effects of TGFβR inhibitor and Kempaullone on EGC derivation from PGCs. Treatment of PGCs with TGFβR inhibitor and/or Kempaullone generated pluripotent stem cells under standard embryonic stem cell (ESC) culture conditions without bFGF and SCF, which we termed induced EGCs (iEGCs). The derivation efficiency of iEGCs was dependent on the differentiation stage and sex. DNA methylation levels of imprinted genes in iEGCs were reduced, with the exception of the H19 gene. The promoters of genes involved in germline development were generally hypomethylated in PGCs, but three germline genes showed comparable DNA methylation levels among iEGs, ESCs, and iPSCs. These results show that PGCs can be reprogrammed into pluripotent state using small molecule compounds, and that DNA methylation of these germline genes is not maintained in iEGCs. Stem Cells 2014
    Stem Cells 09/2014; · 7.70 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Primordial germ cells (PGCs) are embryonic germ cell precursors. Specification of PGCs occurs under the influence of mesodermal induction signaling during in vivo gastrulation. Although bone morphogenetic proteins and Wnt signaling play pivotal roles in both mesodermal and PGC specification, the signal regulating PGC specification remains unknown. Coculture of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) with OP9 feeder cells induces mesodermal differentiation in vitro. Using this mesodermal differentiation system, we demonstrated that PGC-like cells were efficiently induced from mouse ESCs by ERK signaling inhibition. Inhibition of ERK signaling by a MEK inhibitor upregulated germ cell marker genes but downregulated mesodermal genes. In addition, the PGC-like cells showed downregulation of DNA methylation and formed pluripotent stem cell colonies upon treatment with retinoic acid. These results show that inhibition of ERK signaling suppresses mesodermal differentiation but activates germline differentiation program in this mesodermal differentiation system. Our findings provide a new insight into the signaling networks regulating PGC specification. Stem Cells 2014
    Stem Cells 07/2014; · 7.70 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: DNA methylation of retrotransposons and imprinted genes is accurately regulated in spermatogenesis. In particular, CpG methylation of long interspersed elements-1 (LINE1 or L1) and intracisternal A-particle (IAP) retrotransposons during spermatogenesis has been well characterized. CpG methylation of the regulatory regions of retrotransposons is acquired during embryonic testis development; however, reductions of DNA methylation in LINE1 and/or IAP and/or Rasgrf1, which is an imprinted gene, are observed in deficient mice of piRNA biogenesis concerning. Here, we describe two methods, bisulfite sequencing and Southern blotting using a methylation-sensitive restriction enzyme, for analysis of DNA methylation of LINE1, IAP, and imprinted genes in mouse testes.
    Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) 01/2014; 1093:97-109. · 1.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: piRNA (PIWI-interacting RNA) is a germ cell-specific small RNA in which biogenesis PIWI (P-element wimpy testis) family proteins play crucial roles. MILI (mouse Piwi-like), one of the three mouse PIWI family members, is indispensable for piRNA production, DNA methylation of retrotransposons presumably through the piRNA, and spermatogenesis. The biogenesis of piRNA has been divided into primary and secondary processing pathways; in both of these MILI is involved in mice. To analyze the molecular function of MILI in piRNA biogenesis, we utilized germline stem (GS) cells, which are derived from testicular stem cells and possess a spermatogonial phenotype. We established MILI-null GS cell lines and their revertant, MILI-rescued GS cells, by introducing the Mili gene with Sendai virus vector. Comparison of wild-type, MILI-null, and MILI-rescued GS cells revealed that GS cells were quite useful for analyzing the molecular mechanisms of piRNA production, especially the primary processing pathway. We found that glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase 2 (GPAT2), a mitochondrial outer membrane protein for lysophosphatidic acid, bound to MILI using the cells and that gene knockdown of GPAT2 brought about impaired piRNA production in GS cells. GPAT2 is not only one of the MILI bound proteins but also a protein essential for primary piRNA biogenesis.
    RNA 04/2013; · 5.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: DNA methylation is a central epigenetic event that regulates cellular differentiation, reprogramming, and pathogenesis. Genome-wide DNA demethylation occurs in preimplantation embryos and in embryonic germ cell precursors called primordial germ cells (PGCs). We previously showed that Dppa3, also known as Stella and PGC7, protects the maternal genome from tet methylcytosine dioxygenase 3 (Tet3)-mediated conversion of 5-methylcytosine (5mC) to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) in zygotes. Here, we demonstrated that retrotransposon genes, such as long interspersed nuclear element-1 (Line-1) and intracisternal A particle (IAP), showed higher 5mC levels in Dppa3-null PGCs. In contrast, oxidative bisulfite sequence analysis revealed that the amounts of 5hmC in Line-1 and IAP were slightly reduced in the Dppa3-deficient PGCs. From our findings, we propose that Dppa3 is involved in the Tet-mediated active demethylation process during reprogramming of PGCs.
    Biology of Reproduction 04/2013; · 4.03 Impact Factor
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    Shinichiro Chuma, Toru Nakano
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    ABSTRACT: Transposable elements and their fossil sequences occupy about half of the genome in mammals. While most of these selfish mobile elements have been inactivated by truncations and mutations during evolution, some copies remain competent to transpose and/or amplify, posing an ongoing genetic threat. To control such mutagenic sequences, host genomes have developed multiple layers of defence mechanisms, including epigenetic regulation and RNA silencing. Germ cells, in particular, employ the piwi-small RNA pathway, which plays a central and adaptive role in safeguarding the germline genome from retrotransposons. Recent studies have revealed that a class of developmentally regulated genes, which have long been implicated in germ cell specification and differentiation, such as vasa and tudor family genes, play key roles in the piwi pathway to suppress retrotransposons, indicating that the piwi-mediated genome protection is at the core of germline development. Furthermore, while the piwi system primarily operates post-transcriptionally at the RNA level, it also affects the epigenetics of cognate genome loci, offering an intriguing link between small RNAs and transcriptional control in mammals. In this review, we summarize our current understanding of the piwi pathway in mice, which is emerging as a fundamental component of spermatogenesis that ensures male fertility and genome integrity.
    Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 01/2013; 368(1609):20110338. · 6.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mps one binder 1a (MOB1A) and MOB1B are key components of the Hippo signaling pathway and are mutated or inactivated in many human cancers. Here we show that intact Mob1a or Mob1b is essential for murine embryogenesis and that loss of the remaining WT Mob1 allele in Mob1aΔ/Δ1btr/+ or Mob1aΔ/+1btr/tr mice results in tumor development. Because most of these cancers resembled trichilemmal carcinomas, we generated double-mutant mice bearing tamoxifen-inducible, keratinocyte-specific homozygous-null mutations of Mob1a and Mob1b (kDKO mice). kDKO mice showed hyperplastic keratinocyte progenitors and defective keratinocyte terminal differentiation and soon died of malnutrition. kDKO keratinocytes exhibited hyperproliferation, apoptotic resistance, impaired contact inhibition, enhanced progenitor self renewal, and increased centrosomes. Examination of Hippo pathway signaling in kDKO keratinocytes revealed that loss of Mob1a/b altered the activities of the downstream Hippo mediators LATS and YAP1. Similarly, YAP1 was activated in some human trichilemmal carcinomas, and some of these also exhibited MOB1A/1B inactivation. Our results clearly demonstrate that MOB1A and MOB1B have overlapping functions in skin homeostasis, and exert their roles as tumor suppressors by regulating downstream elements of the Hippo pathway.
    The Journal of clinical investigation 11/2012; · 15.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In germ cells, early embryos and stem cells of animals, PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) have an important role in silencing retrotransposons, which are vicious genomic parasites, through transcriptional and posttranscriptional mechanisms. To examine whether the piRNA pathway can be used to silence genes of interest in germ cells, we have generated knockin mice in which a foreign DNA fragment was inserted into a region generating pachytene piRNAs. The knockin sequence was transcribed and the resulting RNA was processed to yield piRNAs in postnatal testes. When reporter genes possessing a sequence complementary to portions of the knockin sequence were introduced, they were greatly repressed after the time of pachytene piRNA generation. This repression mainly occurred at the posttranscriptional level, as degradation of the reporter RNAs was accelerated. Our results show that the piRNA pathway can be used as a tool for sequence-specific gene silencing in germ cells and support the idea that the piRNA generating regions serve as traps for retrotransposons, enabling the host cell to generate piRNAs against active retrotransposons.
    Genome Research 11/2012; · 14.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The modification of DNA by 5-methylcytosine (5mC) has essential roles in cell differentiation and development through epigenetic gene regulation. 5mC can be converted to another modified base, 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), by the tet methylcytosine dioxygenase (Tet) family of enzymes. Notably, the balance between 5hmC and 5mC in the genome is linked with cell-differentiation processes such as pluripotency and lineage commitment. We have previously reported that the maternal factor PGC7 (also known as Dppa3, Stella) is required for the maintenance of DNA methylation in early embryogenesis, and protects 5mC from conversion to 5hmC in the maternal genome. Here we show that PGC7 protects 5mC from Tet3-mediated conversion to 5hmC by binding to maternal chromatin containing dimethylated histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9me2) in mice. In addition, imprinted loci that are marked with H3K9me2 in mature sperm are protected by PGC7 binding in early embryogenesis. This type of regulatory mechanism could be involved in DNA modifications in somatic cells as well as in early embryos.
    Nature 06/2012; 486(7403):415-9. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    Kazuhito Ohishi, Toru Nakano
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    ABSTRACT: RNA interference is a major post-transcriptional regulatory pathway in many eukaryotes. The RNase III enzyme Dicer1 processes precursor RNAs into small RNA duplexes to be loaded onto Argonaute proteins, the effector components of RNA-induced silencing complex. Biochemical studies have shown that the RNase IIIa and RNase IIIb domains of Dicer1 cleave the 3' and 5' strands of dsRNAs, respectively, although the in vivo functional significance of this activity remains unclear. Genetic screening of mammalian cells is useful for studying molecular mechanisms at the cellular level. In the present study, we conducted a novel forward genetic screen for mammalian RNA interference components using Chinese hamster ovary cells and successfully obtained several Dicer1 mutant lines. One mutant bore an intriguing Dicer1 allele in which a conserved glutamic acid in the RNase IIIa domain was substituted with a lysine. Our detailed cell biological study demonstrated that the RNase IIIa domain of Dicer1 was essential for generating small RNAs embedded in the 3' stem of exogenous hairpin-like RNAs. In the mutant cells, the expression of endogenous mature microRNAs derived from the 3' stem of pre-microRNA was repressed more severely than that from the 5' stem. Moreover, appropriate processing and loading of small RNAs were required for the dissociation of Argonaute 2 from Dicer1. The data obtained in the present study demonstrate that this screening method represents a promising strategy for the identification of unknown components of mammalian RNA interference pathways and the study of the biological significance of these components at the cellular level.
    FEBS Journal 03/2012; 279(5):832-43. · 4.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Dynamic alterations in chromatin configuration occur in mammalian oocytogenesis. Based on chromatin configuration patterns, fully grown oocytes are classified into two types. One is surrounded nucleolus (SN)-type and the other is nonsurrounded nucleolus (NSN)-type oocytes. Although chromatin condensation during the transition from NSN- to SN-type oocytes is a prerequisite for normal early embryonic development, the molecular mechanisms remain unclear. In this study, we analyzed the role of DPPA3 (also known as PGC7/Stella) in this transition using Dppa3-null oocytes. The NSN-to-SN transition was significantly impaired, and transcriptional repression was incomplete in the Dppa3-null oocytes. Additionally, we revealed that prior transcriptional repression was necessary for the NSN-to-SN transition. These findings demonstrate that DPPA3 is an essential factor for the production of functional oocytes through transcriptional repression and chromatin condensation.
    Biology of Reproduction 01/2012; 86(2):40. · 4.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In mammals, germ cells undergo striking dynamic changes in DNA methylation during their development. However, the dynamics and mode of methylation are poorly understood for short interspersed elements (SINEs) dispersed throughout the genome. We investigated the DNA methylation status of mouse B1 SINEs in male germ cells at different developmental stages. B1 elements showed a large locus-to-locus variation in methylation; loci close to RNA polymerase II promoters were hypomethylated, while most others were hypermethylated. Interestingly, a mutation that eliminates Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), which are involved in methylation of long interspersed elements (LINEs), did not affect the level of B1 methylation, implying a piRNA-independent mechanism. Methylation at B1 loci in SINE-poor genomic domains showed a higher dependency on the de novo DNA methyltransferase DNMT3A but not on DNMT3B, suggesting that DNMT3A plays a major role in methylation of these domains. We also found that many genes specifically expressed in the testis possess B1 elements in their promoters, suggesting the involvement of B1 methylation in transcriptional regulation. Taken altogether, our results not only reveal the dynamics and mode of SINE methylation but also suggest how the DNA methylation profile is created in the germline by a pair of DNA methyltransferases.
    Genome Research 12/2011; 21(12):2058-66. · 14.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cloning mammals by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is highly inefficient. Most SCNT-generated embryos die after implantation because of unidentified, complex epigenetic errors in the process of postimplantation embryonic development. Here we identify the most upstream level of dysfunction leading to impaired development of clones by using RNAi against Xist, a gene responsible for X chromosome inactivation (XCI). A prior injection of Xist-specific siRNA into reconstructed oocytes efficiently corrected SCNT-specific aberrant Xist expression at the morula stage, but failed to do so thereafter at the blastocyst stage. However, we found that shortly after implantation, this aberrant XCI status in cloned embryos had been corrected autonomously in both embryonic and extraembryonic tissues, probably through a newly established XCI control for postimplantation embryos. Embryo transfer experiments revealed that siRNA-treated embryos showed 10 times higher survival than controls as early as embryonic day 5.5 and this high survival persisted until term, resulting in a remarkable improvement in cloning efficiency (12% vs. 1% in controls). Importantly, unlike control clones, these Xist-siRNA clones at birth showed only a limited dysregulation of their gene expression, indicating that correction of Xist expression in preimplantation embryos had a long-term effect on their postnatal normality. Thus, contrary to the general assumption, our results suggest that the fate of cloned embryos is determined almost exclusively before implantation by their XCI status. Furthermore, our strategy provides a promising breakthrough for mammalian SCNT cloning, because RNAi treatment of oocytes is readily applicable to most mammal species.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 11/2011; 108(51):20621-6. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the male germline in mammals, chromatoid bodies, a specialized assembly of cytoplasmic ribonucleoprotein (RNP), are structurally evident during meiosis and haploidgenesis, but their developmental origin and regulation remain elusive. The tudor domain containing proteins constitute a conserved class of chromatoid body components. We show that tudor domain containing 7 (Tdrd7), the deficiency of which causes male sterility and age-related cataract (as well as glaucoma), is essential for haploid spermatid development and defines, in concert with Tdrd6, key biogenesis processes of chromatoid bodies. Single and double knockouts of Tdrd7 and Tdrd6 demonstrated that these spermiogenic tudor genes orchestrate developmental programs for ordered remodeling of chromatoid bodies, including the initial establishment, subsequent RNP fusion with ubiquitous processing bodies/GW bodies and later structural maintenance. Tdrd7 suppresses LINE1 retrotransposons independently of piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA) biogenesis wherein Tdrd1 and Tdrd9 operate, indicating that distinct Tdrd pathways act against retrotransposons in the male germline. Tdrd6, in contrast, does not affect retrotransposons but functions at a later stage of spermiogenesis when chromatoid bodies exhibit aggresome-like properties. Our results delineate that chromatoid bodies assemble as an integrated compartment incorporating both germline and ubiquitous features as spermatogenesis proceeds and that the conserved tudor family genes act as master regulators of this unique RNP remodeling, which is genetically linked to the male germline integrity in mammals.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2011; 108(26):10579-84. · 9.81 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

6k Citations
803.34 Total Impact Points


  • 1999–2014
    • Osaka University
      • • Department of Pathology
      • • Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences
      • • Division of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology
      Suika, Ōsaka, Japan
  • 1991–2013
    • Kyoto University
      • • Graduate School of Medicine / Faculty of Medicine
      • • Department of Medical Chemistry
      • • Department of Neurosurgery
      Kyoto, Kyoto-fu, Japan
  • 2011
    • Kyushu University
      • Medical Institute of Bioregulation - MIB Hospital
      Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken, Japan
    • Universität des Saarlandes
      Saarbrücken, Saarland, Germany
  • 2008–2011
    • National Institute of Genetics
      • Division of Human Genetics
      Mishima, Shizuoka-ken, Japan
  • 2007–2010
    • The Ohio State University
      • Department of Pathology
      Columbus, OH, United States
  • 2003–2008
    • Akita University Hospital
      Akita, Akita, Japan
    • Osaka Red Cross Hospital
      Ōsaka, Ōsaka, Japan
  • 1995–1996
    • Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine
      Kioto, Kyōto, Japan