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Annu Rev Biochem. 2011;80:16-40. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biochem-082808-091843.

Journey of a molecular biologist.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry, University of California, Irvine, California 92697-1700, USA.


My journey into a research career began in fermentation biochemistry in an applied science department during the difficult post-World War II time in Japan. Subsequently, my desire to do research in basic science developed. I was fortunate to be a postdoctoral fellow in the United States during the early days of molecular biology. From 1957 to 1960, I worked with three pioneers of molecular biology, Sol Spiegelman, James Watson, and Seymour Benzer. These experiences helped me develop into a basic research scientist. My initial research projects at Osaka University, and subsequently at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, were on the mode of action of colicins as well as on mRNA and ribosomes. Following success in the reconstitution of ribosomal subunits, my efforts focused more on ribosomes, initially on the aspects of structure, function, and in vitro assembly, such as the construction of the 30S subunit assembly map. After this, my laboratory studied the regulation of the synthesis of ribosomes and ribosomal components in Escherichia coli. Our achievements included the discovery of translational feedback regulation of ribosomal protein synthesis and the identification of several repressor ribosomal proteins used in this regulation. In 1984, I moved to the University of California, Irvine, and initiated research on rRNA transcription by RNA polymerase I in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The use of yeast genetics combined with biochemistry allowed us to identify genes uniquely involved in rRNA synthesis and to elucidate the mechanism of initiation of transcription. This essay is a reflection on my life as a research scientist.

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