The Human Genome Project (HGP) is one of the most important international achievements in life sciences, to which Japanese scientists made remarkable contributions. In the early 1980s, Akiyoshi Wada pioneered the first project for the automation of DNA sequencing technology. Ken-ichi Matsubara exhibited exceptional leadership to launch the comprehensive human genome program in Japan. Hideki Kambara made a major contribution by developing a key device for high-speed DNA sequencers, which enabled scientists to construct human genome draft sequences. The RIKEN team led by Yoshiyuki Sakaki (the author) played remarkable roles in the draft sequencing and completion of chromosomes 21, 18, and 11. Additionally, the Keio University team led by Nobuyoshi Shimizu made noteworthy contributions to the completion of chromosomes 22, 21, and 8. In April 2003, the Japanese team joined the international consortium in declaring the completion of the human genome sequence. Consistent with the HGP mandate, Japan has successfully developed a wide range of ambitious genomic sciences.
Ghrelin, a growth hormone-releasing peptide first discovered in rat stomach in 1999, is a ligand for the growth hormone secretagogue receptor. It participates in the regulation of diverse processes, including energy balance and body weight maintenance, and appears to be beneficial for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. In animal models of chronic heart failure, ghrelin improves cardiac function and remodeling; these findings have been recapitulated in human patients. In other animal models, ghrelin effectively diminishes pulmonary hypertension. Moreover, ghrelin administration early after myocardial infarction decreased the frequency of fatal arrhythmia and improved survival rate. In ghrelin-deficient mice, endogenous ghrelin protects against fatal arrhythmia and promotes remodeling after myocardial infarction. Although the mechanisms underlying the effects of ghrelin on the cardiovascular system have not been fully elucidated, its beneficial effects appear to be mediated through regulation of the autonomic nervous system. Ghrelin is a promising therapeutic agent for cardiac diseases.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a global public health problem, affecting over 10% of the world’s population and more than half of the population aged over 70 years, imposing major costs on healthcare systems. Although the primary causes of CKD include various diseases such as diabetes, glomerulonephritis, and acute kidney injury (AKI), the progression of CKD is mediated by a common pathological pathway, which is mainly characterized by fibrosis and chronic inflammation. In this process, resident fibroblasts in the kidney play crucial roles. Accumulating evidence highlights the existence of functional heterogeneity and plasticity of fibroblasts and their diverse roles in kidney disease progression and resolution. In addition to renal fibrosis, renal anemia and peritubular capillary loss, two major complications of progressive CKD, are also caused by dysfunction of resident fibroblasts. Furthermore, age-dependent alterations in fibroblast behavior also contribute to age-dependent unique pathological conditions. In this article, we describe the current understanding regarding the behaviors of fibroblasts in the kidney in health, disease, and aging.
Intermediate filaments (IFs), in coordination with microfilaments and microtubules, form the structural framework of the cytoskeleton and nucleus, thereby providing mechanical support against cellular stresses and anchoring intracellular organelles in place. The assembly and disassembly of IFs are mainly regulated by the phosphorylation of IF proteins. These phosphorylation states can be tracked using antibodies raised against phosphopeptides in the target proteins. IFs exert their functions through interactions with not only structural proteins, but also non-structural proteins involved in cell signaling, such as stress responses, apoptosis, and cell proliferation. This review highlights findings related to how IFs regulate cell division through phosphorylation cascades and how trichoplein, a centriolar protein originally identified as a keratin-associated protein, regulates the cell cycle through primary cilium formation.