Katsura Asano, Professor


Contact information

258 Chalmers Hall
(785) 532-0116


Ph.D. 1994, University of Tokyo, Japan.

Area(s) of Specialization

Regulation of protein biosynthesis
Yeast genetics and biochemistry
Molecular and cell biology of insects and cancer

Research Focus

Our long-term goal is to understand the mechanism and control of eukaryotic translation initiation at the molecular level. Translation initiation is the rate-limiting step of protein biosynthesis and an important target for the control of gene expression. Unregulated translation initiation is an important phenotype of malignantly transformed cells. We are particularly interested in the biological effects of translational regulation by altering the choice of start codons, including non-AUG start codons.

The main player of our projects is translation initiation multifactor complex (MFC), a ~1 MDa complex made of eukaryotic initiation factors (eIF) 1, 2, 3, 5 and the initiator Met-tRNA. This is found in all the eukaryotic species examined so far including humans and yeasts. MFC allows stringent translation initiation at AUG codons and serves as the platform of complex translational regulation required for higher-ordered eukaryotic functions. We dissect MFC functions by genetics using mutations in two proteins, eIF3e/Int-6 and eIF5-mimic protein (5MP). Being located in the structural core of eIF3, eIF3e plays an important role in translational regulation, coordinating cellular proliferation and metabolism. As a molecular mimic and competitor of eIF5, 5MP inhibits MFC function, regulating initiator Met-tRNA recruitment to the ribosome and stringency of translation initiation. We use yeasts, insects, and human cells, including cancer cells, to study MFC functions in stringent translation initiation, cell differentiation, and neuronal growth regulation.

Selected Publications

Yoshihiko Fujita, Takeru Kameda, Chingakham Ranjit Singh, Whitney Pepper, Ariana Cecil, Madelyn Hilgers, Mackenzie Thornton, Izumi Asano, Carter Moravek, Yuichi Togashi, Hirohide Saito, and Katsura Asano. 2022. Translational recoding by chemical modification of non-AUG start codon ribonucleotide bases. Sci Adv 8(14): eabm8501.

Chingakham Ranjit Singh, Marry Rebecca Glineburg, Chelsea Moore, Naoki Tani, Rahul Jaiswal, Ye Zou, Eric Aube, Sarah Gillaspie, Mackenzie Thornton, Ariana Cecil, Madelyn Hilgers, Azuma Takasu, Izumi Asano, Masayo Asano, Carlos R. Escalante, Akira Nakamura, Peter Todd, and Katsura Asano. 2021. Human oncoprotein 5MP suppresses general and repeat-associated non-AUG translation via eIF3 by a common mechanism. Cell Reports 36, 103976.

Yuji Chikashige, Hiroaki Kato, Mackenzie Thornton, Whitney Pepper, Madelyn Hilgers, Ariana Cecil, Izumi Asano, Haana Yamada, Chie Mori, Cheyenne Brunkow, Carter Moravek, Takeshi Urano, Chingakham Ranjit Singh, and Katsura Asano. 2020. Gcn2 eIF2a kinase mediates combinatorial translational regulation through nucleotide motifs and uORFs in target mRNAs. Nucl. Acids Res. 48(16):8977-8992.

Kuniaki Sato, Takaaki Masuda, Qingjiang Hu, Taro Tobo, Sarah Gillaspie, Atsushi Niida, Mackenzie Thornton, Yousuke Kuroda, Hidetoshi Eguchi, Takashi Nakagawa, Katsura Asano, and Koshi Mimori. 2019. Novel oncogene 5MP1 reprograms c-myc translation initiation to drive malignant phenotypes in colorectal cancer. EBioMedicine 44, 387-402.

Leiming Tang, Jacob Morris, Ji Wan, Chelsea Moore, Yoshihiko Fujita, Sarah Gillaspie, Eric Aube, Jagpreet Nanda, Abbey Anderson, Christian Cox, Hiroyuki Hiraishi, Leiming Dong, Maud Marques, Maika Jangal, Chingakham Ranjit Singh, Hirohide Saito, Michael Witcher, Ivan Topisirovic, Shu-Bing Qian, Katsura Asano. 2017. Competition between translation initiation factor eIF5 and its mimic protein 5MP determines non-AUG initiation rate genome-wide. Nucl Acids Res 45(20):11941-11953.

Eiji Obayashi, Rafael E. Luna, Takashi Nagata, Pilar Martin-Marcos, Hiroyuki Hiraishi, Chingakham Ranjit Singh, Jan Peter Erzberger, Fan Zhang, Haribabu Arthanari, Jacob Morris, Riccardo Pellarin, Chelsea Moore, Ian Harmon, Evangelos Papadopoulos, Hisashi Yoshida, Mahmoud L. Nasr, Satoru Unzai, Brytteny Thompson, Eric Aube, Samantha Hustak, Florian Stengel, Eddie Dagraca, Asokan Ananbandam, Philip Gao, Takeshi Urano, Alan G. Hinnebusch, Gerhard Wagner, and Katsura Asano. 2017. Molecular landscape of the ribosome pre-initiation complex during mRNA scanning: structural role for eIF3c and its control by eIF5. Cell Reports 18(11):2651-2663.

Caitlin Kozel, Brytteny Thompson, Samantha Hustak, Chelsea Moore, Akio Nakashima, Chingakham Ranjit Singh, Megan Reid, Christian Cox, Evangelos Papadopoulos, Rafael E. Luna, Abbey Anderson, Hideaki Tagami, Hiroyuki Hiraishi, Emily Archer Slone, Ken-ichi Yoshino, Masayo Asano, Sarah Gillaspie, Jerome Nietfeld, Jean-Pierre Perchellet, Stefan Rothenburg, Hisao Masai, Gerhard Wagner, Alexander Beeser, Ushio Kikkawa, Sherry D. Fleming, and Katsura Asano. 2016. Overexpression of eIF5 or its protein mimic 5MP perturbs eIF2 function and induces ATF4 translation through delayed re-initiation. Nucl Acids Res 44(18):8704-8713.

Katsura Asano. 2021. Origin of translational control by eIF2α phosphorylation: Insights from genome-wide translational profiling studies in fission yeast. Current Genetics, published online 09 Jan 2021.

Asano, K. 2014. Why is start codon selection so precise in eukaryotes? Review. Translation 2, e28387.

View the complete publication list in PubMed
View Asano's "new" hypothesis on origin of eukaryotes (2008)
View publications in Translation