Professor Naoki Itano

Area and Subject Taught Molecular Oncology
Research Theme(s) Development of Innovative Technologies for Healthy Longevity
Academic Degrees Ph.D. (Kyoto University)
Keywords for Research Field Anti-aging, Hyaluronan, Cancer
Office Phone Number 81-75-705-3064
e-mail

Research Overview

We here in Japan are facing a multitude of problems caused by the rapid growth of what has been termed the “super-aged society”. The aims of our research are to improve the morbidities that are characteristic of age progression and to establish innovative technologies that can ensure a comfortable quality of life (QOL) for elderly. To this end, our laboratory has been pursuing the following research programs.

  1. 1. Elucidation of the Biosynthetic Process of Hyaluronan and its Application to Anti-aging Technologies
    There are an increasing number of bedridden elderly people in Japan with a loss of joint function due to conditions like osteoarthritis. Hyaluronan (HA) acts as a cushion and lubricant in articulating joints. Our laboratory has succeeded in establishing an in vitro reconstitution system using a recombinant HA synthase protein and developed a screening system for compounds that have the enzyme activation potential. Our future challenge is therefore to understand the entire mechanism of HA biosynthesis and apply this knowledge to developing innovative anti-aging technologies.
  2. Establishment of Therapies Targeting Cancer Stem Cell Niches
    Cancer has become the leading cause of death in our country due to increased longevity, and as such the eradication of cancer has become a social mission. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) have recently been reported to exist in many malignancies and have attracted remarkable attention because they are believed to be the only cells capable of initiating cancer growth. CSCs, like normal stem cells, reside and maintain their stemness within a specialized microenvironment called a stem cell niche. Thus, strategies to limit their stemness and malignant transformation must focus on the importance of targeting this CSC niche. The main purpose of our research in this domain is to identify the cellular and molecular cues that govern the formation of the specialized CSC niche microenvironment and establish novel therapies to induce a state of cancer dormancy by controlling the niche.

Notable Publications and Works in the Last Three Years

  1. Ontong, P., Hatada, Y., Taniguchi, S., Kakizaki, I., and Itano, N. Effect of a cholesterol-rich lipid environment on the enzymatic activity of reconstituted hyaluronan synthase. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 443: 666-671 (2014)
  2. Kashima, Y., Takahashi, M., Shiba, Y., Itano, N., Izawa, A., Koyama, J., Nakayama, J., Taniguchi, S., Kimata, K., and Ikeda, U. Crucial role of hyaluronan in neointimal formation after vascular injury. PLoS One. 8(3):e58760., (2013)
  3. Ikuta, T., Kobayashi, Y., Kitazawa, M., Shiizaki, K., Itano, N., Noda, T., Pettersson, S., Poellinger, L., Fujii-Kuriyama, Y., Taniguchi, S., and Kawajiri, K. ASC-associated inflammation promotes cecal tumorigenesis in aryl hydrocarbon receptor-deficient mice. Carcinogenesis. 34(7):1620-1627. (2013)
  4. Goncharova, V., Serobyan, N., Iizuka, S., Schraufstatter, I., de Ridder, A., Povaliy, T., Wacker, V., Itano, N., Kimata, K., Orlovskaja, I.A., Yamaguchi, Y., and Khaldoyanidi, S. Hyaluronan expressed by the hematopoietic microenvironment is required for bone marrow hematopoiesis. J. Biol. Chem. 287(30):25419-25433 (2012)
  5. Takano, H., Nakazawa, S., Shirata, N., Tamba, S., Furuta, K., Tsuchiya, S., Morimoto, K., Itano, N., Irie, A., Ichikawa, A., Kimata, K., Nakayama, K., Sugimoto, Y., and Tanaka, S. Restriction of mast cell proliferation through hyaluronan synthesis by co-cultured fibroblasts. Biol. Pharm. Bull. 35(3):408-412 (2012)
  6. Mack, J.A., Feldman, R.J., Itano, N., Kimata, K., Lauer, M., Hascall, V.C., and Maytin, E.V. Enhanced inflammation and accelerated wound closure following tetraphorbol ester application or full-thickness wounding in mice lacking hyaluronan synthases Has1 and Has3. J. Invest. Dermatol. 132(1):198-207 (2012)
  7. Iijima, J, Konno, K., and Itano, N. Inflammatory alterations of the extracellular matrix in the tumor microenvironment. Cancers 3: 3189-3205 (2011)
  8. Yabushita, H., Iwasaki, K., Kanyama, K., Obayashi, Y., Zhuo, L., Itano, N., Kimata, K., Wakatsuki, A. Clinicopathological Role of Serum-Derived Hyaluronan-Associated Protein (SHAP)-Hyaluronan Complex in Endometrial Cancer. Obstet. Gynecol. Int. 2011:739150 (2011)
  9. Yamazaki, H., Takeoka, M., Kitazawa, M., Ehara, T., Itano, N., Kato, H., and Taniguchi, S. ASC plays a role in the priming phase of the immune response to type II collagen in collagen-induced arthritis. Rheumatol Int. 10. (2011)